“Turkey must take a step back. If not, next week Cyprus and Greece will bring the issue to the European leaders for discussion at the European Council on October 16-17, ”Greek government spokesperson Stelios Petsas said on Thursday. .
EU members Greece and Cyprus called for sanctions against Turkey last week, in retaliation for Turkish oil and gas exploration off Cyprus.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis condemned the decision to reopen Varosha.
“This decision is a flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Greece will support all relevant efforts of the Republic of Cyprus ”, he said.
Varosha was evacuated and became a no man’s land when Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974, in response to a Greek-inspired coup on the island.
Greek Cypriots now live in the Republic of Cyprus in the south of the island, while Turkish Cypriots live in a northern enclave still occupied by Turkish troops.
The UN has called for the return of Varosha to its former Greek Cypriot inhabitants, or at least the UN peacekeeping force UNFICYP.
Turkey’s latest move risks reversing decades of efforts to achieve political reunification of the island as a federal, bicommunal state.
It is also a slap in the face of the EU, which last week resisted Greek and Cypriot calls for sanctions on Turkey’s oil exploration in the region.
On October 2, the EU declared that it “strongly condemns the violations of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus which must end”, but did not explicitly mention the sanctions.
On Thursday Mitsotakis and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a joint statement calling on Turkey to abide by past UN Security Council resolutions.
But Turkish and Cypriot Cypriot officials insist the decision to reopen parts of Varosha will not affect the rights of Greek Cypriot owners since it is only the beach that is opening for now.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the reopening of Varosha on Tuesday, during a joint press conference with the Prime Minister of the Turkish Cypriot community, Ersin Tatar.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci believes the move is an attempt to influence the outcome of Sunday’s presidential elections in the north of the island.
He called Ankara’s announcement “a shame for our democracy” and “interference in our elections”.
Unlike the other members of the cabinet, Akinci is in favor of greater independence from Turkey, which finances the Turkish-Cypriot enclave and deposits some 35,000 troops there.
Petros Liakouras, professor of international relations at the University of Piraeus, told Al Jazeera that Ankara supports the enclave’s foreign minister, Kudrey Ozersay, as the next president.
“But I don’t think he’s going to win. I think Akinci will be the winner in the second round, ”said Liakouras.
“Akinci truly defends the interests of Turkish Cypriots, who are different from those who became Turkish Cypriots after 1974 with the settlement policy.
The island’s Turkish Cypriot population has grown from 80,000 in 1974 to over 200,000, in part thanks to measures taken by Turkey to encourage its citizens to relocate to the island through incentives such as housing free.
Akinci has spoken out publicly against reopening Varosha.
Last February, he won the ire of the Erdogan government by expressing fears that if continued efforts to reunify the island do not progress at a steady pace, Northern Cyprus risks annexation by Turkey, a prospect that he called it “horrible”.
Cyprus has accused Turkey of always defying UN resolutions on the island.
In November 1974, three months after the invasion, the United Nations General Assembly called for the “rapid withdrawal of all foreign armed forces” from Cyprus, without effect.
A series of UN Security Council resolutions specifically called on the Turkish military to relinquish control over Varosha.
In 1977, after Turkey first expressed its wish to settle mainland Turks in Varosha, Resolution 414 called on all parties to refrain from “unilateral actions anywhere in Cyprus which could harm the prospects for a just and peaceful solution ”.
After Turkey declared the northern enclave an independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983, which only Ankara recognizes, Resolution 550 again declared that members of the Security Council were “deeply concerned about recent threats of colonization. of Varosha by persons other than its inhabitants ”.
In 1992, resolution 789 stated that if Varosha could not be returned to its Greek Cypriot inhabitants, it should at least be placed under the control of UN UNFICYP.
As recently as July of this year, the Security Council continued to call for the implementation of past resolutions on Varosha.
Liakouras believes that Turkey has strategic reasons for occupying Varosha.
“Famagusta is a very strategic point. Turkey maintains its army in Cyprus to give it more weight in the Middle East. He wants to control Lebanon and Syria from there, and offer aid to Palestine, ”he said.
“Turkey would very much like, and she said it, establish a naval base just north of Famagusta … from which to launch a rapid reaction force to control this whole area.”