Hundreds of Cypriots, mostly refugees who fled the advancing Turkish Army in 1974, gathered on Thursday near Varosha, the once-cosmopolitan beach resort of Famagusta, to protest Erdogan’s decision to open up the ghost town despite UN resolutions.
The demonstration took place at a crossing point along a UN-controlled buffer zone. The checkpoint — one of nine from which Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can cross on either side — was shut on the Turkish Cypriot side as part of measures to counter the spread of Covid-19.
Over 39,000 residents of the Varosha area fled after the Turkish invasion, turning it into an eerie ghost town. Since 1984, rulings including UN Resolutions 550 & 789 have called on Turkey to hand over control of Varosha to the United Nations so that its residents can return to their homes.
UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN.
UN Security Council resolution 789 (1992) also urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550 (1984), the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.
However, all the UN resolutions have fallen on deaf ears.
For the Turkish Cypriots draped in the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags, it was apparently a moment of joy to witness a “historic” moment.
But, for Greeks like Varosha native Kyriakos Charalambides watching on television from his Nicosia home, it was a moment of bitterness and sorrow. “Even though I expected this, I shuddered as I watched those familiar places,” Charalambides, a playwright, told the Associated Press. “It’s a sorrow that cannot be consoled … Varosha is lost.”
“Its a terrible day,” said art historian and archaeologist Anna Marangou, who was 22 when she was forced to flee.
In a heartfelt Tweet, Thomas Kazakos, Director General of the Cyprus Shipping Chamber, wrote about the beloved hometown which he was forced to abandon after 1974’s barbaric invasion.
President Nicos Anastasiades called the move “illegal”. It has already condemned the move and said it would file a recourse to the United Nations Security Council.
Russia said reopening the beach was unacceptable.
Both the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, and EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, have expressed concern about an action they said could heighten tensions and undermine fresh attempts at restarting talks.