EU slams Erdogan's 'unacceptable' push to open Cyprus town

EU slams Erdogan's 'unacceptable' push to open Cyprus ghost town
2 min read
EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said plans announced by Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to further open the former resort, abandoned since Ankara's 1974 invasion of the island, 'constitutes an unacceptable unilateral decision'.
Josep Borrell slammed Erdogan's statements on reopening the Cypriot ghost town of Varosha [Getty]

The EU's foreign policy chief on Tuesday blasted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statements on reopening the Cypriot ghost town of Varosha made during a controversial visit to the divided Mediterranean island.

EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said plans announced by Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to further open the former resort, abandoned since Ankara's 1974 invasion of the island, "constitutes an unacceptable unilateral decision".

"The EU once again underlines the need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise a return to talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue," Borrell said in a statement. 

He added the bloc would monitor how a closed-door consultation on Cyprus goes at the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday and "decide on next steps accordingly".

Erdogan vowed that "life will restart in Varosha" as he took an uncompromising stance during a visit to mark 47 years since the invasion that split Cyprus. 

Varosha -- once the playground of celebrities and dubbed a "Jewel of the Mediterranean" -- was left a fenced off ghost town, where former luxury hotels have become overgrown by weeds.

Tatar, standing by Erdogan's side, announced "the second phase of our plan to expand" the reopening of the Turkish army-controlled east coast resort of Varosha, which the invasion emptied of its Greek Cypriot residents. 

The Turkish army restored public access to parts of the Varosha beachfront last year, since when a main thoroughfare, Demokratias Avenue, has also been cleared.

The internationally recognised government in Nicosia has stressed that "Varosha is a red line not to cross", and strongly condemned Erdogan's previous visit to northern Cyprus last November.

Erdogan in his speech on Tuesday insisted on a two-state solution for the island -- an idea firmly rejected by EU member the Republic of Cyprus and Brussels. 

"The EU remains fully committed to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality," Borrell said in the statement. 

Turkish troops seized the northern third of Cyprus in response to an aborted coup in Nicosia aimed at attaching the country to Greece.

The island has since been divided between the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognised only by Ankara.

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