Turkish Cyprus decides to reopen disputed Varosha to tourism

Turkish Cyprus decides to reopen disputed Varosha to tourism

Turkish Cyprus decides to reopen disputed Varosha to tourism

The Turkish Cypriot government has decided to reopen Varosha, once a leading tourism destination for Hollywood stars but which later turned into a ghost town following the split of the island, after a 45-year seclusion.

“No steps have been taken on the issue. This is a long haul decision and it will help us clarify our projects [for Varosha],” Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar told Turkish broadcaster A Haber on June 18.

“Greek Cyprus might have objections but at the end of the day this place is under our administration. Of course, we have to evaluate the issue with Turkey. What should be done will be done. This is only a beginning.”

The former resort suburb of Famagusta was abandoned and declared a buffer zone between the communities of the island after the Turkish military intervened as a guarantor power following a Greece-inspired coup attempt in 1974.

Before the closure under a United Nations Security Council ruling, there were more than 100 hotels in Varosha, with an accommodation capacity of 10,000. The closure came at a time when hundreds of new constructions were ongoing. The town also hosted a rich library that offered books in Turkish, Greek and English.

However, the hotels, restaurants and high-rise structures looming over sandy beaches of Varosha have been slowly decaying in the absence of a proper human touch.

The status of the resort, once frequented by many celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, has always been on the table in decades-long on-and-off talks for a settlement.

The Turkish side’s recent decision comes at a time when the parties, along with Turkey and Greece, are involved in an exchange of words and diplomatic moves over the fossil fuel rights off the island.

The latest attempt to resolve the Cyprus issue held with the participation of the guarantor countries - Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. - ended with failure in 2017 in Switzerland.

The Turkish Cypriot government is considering carrying out an inventory conduct on the hundreds of assets in the town, which will ease new constructions, Tatar said.

Demirören News Agency reported that the Turkish Cypriot and Turkish governments have agreed to act together to clarify the status of Varosha. As a starter, a team of experts from Turkish Cyprus will enter the closed area to list all assets and movable property and facilitate a scientific report.

“It was time to take steps for Varosha,” a high-ranking official who asked to remain anonymous told the agency.

Kudret Özersay, the Turkish Cypriot foreign minister and deputy prime minister, also confirmed the decision.

The team for the groundwork will also include international experts, he said, according to Türk Ajansı Kıbrıs.