The so-called Prime Minister of occupied northern Cyprus Ersin Tatar said the revival of Varosha (Βαρώσια), now an eerie collection of derelict hotels, churches and residences, would bring trade and tourism benefits.
Varosha, a southern suburb of the city of Famagusta, has been a ghost town since the illegal invasion that partitioned the eastern Mediterranean island along ceasefire lines into an occupied Turkish side and the Republic of Cyprus.
The move will anger Greek Cypriots, 39,000 of whom once lived in Varosha before fleeing advancing Turkish forces 46 years ago, and stoke tensions between the two sides.
Ersin Tatar said “Varosha lies within TRNC territory,” he said, referring to the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. “Nobody can take it from us. We are successfully continuing on our path. The inventory work is almost complete, we are in the opening phase.”
In early August, TRNC authorities said the opening could happen in October, when the elections in the north are due to take place, having been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Famagusta Mayor Simos Ioannou said on Thursday that reunification talks need to start as soon as possible to avert the colonisation of Varosha.
“After the election of the Turkish Cypriot leader, talks need to definitely start,” he said.
Greek Cypriots today live mainly in the south of the island, a republic that is in the European Union and recognised by every country in the world except Turkey. Recognised only by Turkey, the TRNC is considered by the United Nations to be part of the Republic of Cyprus.
The Turkish Army maintains a large force in Northern Cyprus. While its presence is supported and approved by the TRNC government, it is regarded as an occupational force by the Republic of Cyprus, the European Union as a whole, and the international community. The TRNC has been denounced in several United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Since Turkey illegally invaded northern Cyprus, tens of thousands of Turkish colonisers have moved from Turkey to the island, mostly living in homes formerly belonging to Greek Cypriots.
Talks on unification between the two sides in recent years have made no significant progress, and tensions have been rising in the region due to Turkey’s attempts to steal hydrocarbon exploration rights off the coast of the island.