Alleged hotel sale sparks investigation in Varosha

Alleged hotel sale sparks investigation in Varosha

Ömer Bilge - FAMAGUSTA
Alleged hotel sale sparks investigation in Varosha

The allegation that three hotels in Turkish CyprusVarosha city have been sold to a Turkish businessman by their Greek owners has sparked concerns in the Greek administration as the sale or transfer of real estate in the area opened to civilian visits three years ago after a 46-year hiatus is under the control of a commission.

Varosha was abandoned in 1974 after Türkiye’s military intervention on the island as a guarantor power to “protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence.”

However, a 1984 U.N. Security Council resolution said that only its legal inhabitants can resettle the town. Entry into the town was forbidden except for Turkish army personnel stationed in Turkish Cyprus until its partial opening in October 2020.

An unidentified Turkish businessman and the owners of the hotels named Cleo, Agean and Golden Seaside Apartment signed a contract, and it was approved by the Greek authorities, Turkish Cypriot daily Yenibakış has claimed.

Greek Cypriot’s Phileleftheros, in its part, suggested that the seal of the Greek administration on the contract means the deal made at the notary public was approved by the district governor’s office.

An investigation launched by the Greek government came after the daily’s’ allegations. The Greek Interior Ministry and the land registry office, however, announced that there were no applications regarding the sale.

Turkish Cypriot Transport Minister Erhan Arıklı, on the other hand, described it as “good news” that Greek Cypriots sign contracts to sell their properties in Varosha.

“All of Maraş should be removed from the military zone and opened to civilians,” he said. “We are waiting for the propitious moment to open Varosha for settlement.”

The sale is not possible without the decision of the court and the Turkish Cypriot Interior Ministry, lawyer Oğuzhan Hasipoğlu, a member of President Ersin Tatar’s negotiation committee, elaborated.

“The [Nicosia-based] Immovable Property Commission makes the decisions regarding the properties in Varosha, which is the territory of Turkish Cyprus. The owner of a hotel, house or any property before 1974 must apply to the commission and the court must obtain a return order,” he added.

According to the records before 1974, Varosha hosts 105 hotels, around 4,650 houses, 21 banks, seven churches, a tomb, a mosque and nearly 3,000 workplaces.

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the U.N. to achieve a comprehensive settlement.