Varosha storm in Cyprus
Academics, former and current top bureaucrats and senior government officials from North Cyprus and Turkey met over the weekend to discuss the future of the deserted Varosha suburb of Famagusta.
The meeting was held at a former beachside hotel that has been in service as an officers’ club since the 1974 Turkish intervention. The intervention forced some 39,000 Greek Cypriot inhabitants of the former famous tourist attraction center to abandon their houses, hotels and workplaces. Since then, most of the abandoned city has been off-limits to civilians and the meeting was held in the fenced-off section.
Was it a provocation to organize the meeting there? Not only organizing such a meeting in the deserted town but publicly discussing how to reopen it to settlement after 46 years naturally angered the Greek Cypriot leader who branded the development “totally unacceptable.” Would it have made any difference had he welcomed such a meeting?
Probably, as the main focus is not to reopen it to the settlement of Turkish Cypriots, but rather invite former Greek Cypriot residents to return once the ownership problem and the integration of the infrastructure and substructure of the city with that of Famagusta city are resolved.
Once luxurious, hotels, mansions and ordinary homes that were abandoned are now carrying strong impacts of aging and strong corrosion. Particularly the hotels chain along the seaside were seriously corroded. How could they be renovated or how could they be replaced with new buildings particularly when new city development plans strictly prohibit any construction along the seashore in a 100-meter wide zone?
While Prime Minister Ersin Tatar was of the opinion that all inventory work as well as other planning works were completed and now the time has come to consider a roadmap on how the area could be opened to resettlement, it was clear that the move has angered not only Greek Cypriots but other presidential candidates too, who equally felt uneasy.
Was it just a political gimmick? Not to that extent probably, but it was obvious that the timing of the Varosha conference, as well as the venue, were all prepared to boost the presidential electoral chances of Tatar.
That was perhaps why incumbent President Mustafa Akıncı, as well as former Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman – also a presidential hopeful – were quick in complaining of the timing of the conference as well as the people invited. While Akıncı was not invited at all, Erhürman and many other opposition politicians preferred not to attend. Also, attending the conference, People’s Party Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay flatly stressed that preparations needed before such a conference could convene were far from being completed.
Interestingly enough, the meeting was organized by the Union of Bar Associations of Turkey, and Turkey’s number two, Vice President Fuat Oktay, and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül were among the top guests.
Thus, the meeting also angered those Turkish Cypriots who have been critical of Turkey’s “bossy attitudes” regarding the Turkish Cypriot state.
As is said, it was so interesting to see how officious bureaucrats – who popped up the idea of convening such a conference – might so skillfully stir up a hornet’s nest.