Ghost town Varosha: will Erdoğan go ahead with reopening?

Turkish President Erdoğan has visited Varosha in occupied Northern Cyprus to mark the anniversary of the invasion by Turkish troops in 1974. The coastal district from which the Greek Cypriots fled during the invasion is now a ghost town and a symbol of the division of Cyprus. But despite international criticism, Erdoğan is pressing ahead with plans to reopen it.

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Phileleftheros (CY) /

No strength left for protests

Columnist Giorgos Kallinikou would like to see more resolve on the part of the Greek Cypriot population:

“The thousands of legal residents [of Varosha]? Where are they? The hundreds of thousands of Greek Cypriots? Isn't this the place we should all be heading to? Even behind the barbed wire? One hundred, two hundred, three hundred thousand.... Let's unite our voices. To shout at the occupier: 'This is our homeland.' But there is no more room for illusions. We can't even find the strength to protest anymore. They've achieved their goal. So in fact it's not hibernation, we were wrong about that: it's complete paralysis.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

Don't forget the massacre of Turkish Cypriots

The intervention and subsequent occupation of the north of Cyprus by the Turkish military was preceded by a coup against the government, which was aiming for reconciliation between the ethnic groups and to end the bloody clashes. Cumhuriyet recalls the events:

“It’s well known that things did not go well for long with Republic of Cyprus, which was founded on 16 August 1960 and envisaged an equal partnership between Turks and Greeks. ... Local Greek Cypriot terrorist groups supported by Greece declared themselves the sole rightful inhabitants of the island. They justified their attacks with the lie that the Turks had rebelled against the legitimate government. They gained a foothold by convincing uninvolved states and the international public of these lies. They committed a cruel genocide against the Turks.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Even more of a potential threat

The opening of Varosha will be used as further leverage in the negotiations on the Cyprus question, writes Kathimerini:

“In September at the UN General Assembly or a little later, the discussions will resume. Whereby now the Turkish government is threatening to open larger parts of Famagusta next time. And that a failure of the talks would lead to two states. And that the Republic of Cyprus will be sidelined and suffocate under Turkey's military grip in the Eastern Mediterranean. ... This pressure is not limited to Nicosia but could easily extend to Athens - which is painstakingly rebuilding its relations with Ankara.”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Tatar as the frontman

The Cyprus Mail says Erdoğan is exercising restraint:

“Ankara is treading rather cautiously on Varosha, for the time being, allowing Tatar to take alleged ownership of the opening up, because Erdoğan recognises any big moves of the type that had been touted a year ago would provoke a reaction from the international community. He does not want to jeopardise promised financial aid from the EU, which has taken a very clear stand against the opening of Varosha, and could also have come under some pressure from the United States. This may explain why he skirted the issue, restricting himself to putting a positive spin on it, saying everyone would benefit.”

Evrensel (TR) /

The 82nd Turkish province

The government in Ankara needn't waste its breath on the narrative of an independent state of Northern Cyprus, Evrensel comments:

“The AKP government openly treats Northern Cyprus as the 82nd province. ... It decides and implements policies, sometimes without the knowledge of local leaders. It intervened directly in the last elections. It presented Tatar as an AKP candidate while the other candidates were intimidated. ... Presidential advisers and high-ranking AKP officials travelled to Cyprus and personally organised Tatar's election campaign. Cypriot opposition figures have been denied entry to Turkey. With his latest steps, Erdoğan has openly shown that he ignores the alleged independence of Northern Cyprus.”

Duma (BG) /

Northern Cyprus not united behind Erdoğan

People in Northern Cyprus are anything but unanimously behind the steps Erdoğan is taking there, Duma stresses:

“Erdoğan had planned a triumphal visit to the unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on July 19 and 20. But this was overshadowed by, of all people, the behaviour of the political elite of the de facto state. ... The deputies of the largest opposition party, the Republican Turkish Party, as well as those of the Communal Democracy Party boycotted Erdoğan's speech in parliament in which he explained his plans for Northern Cyprus. Former presidents Mustafa Akıncı and Mehmet Ali Talat also stayed away. They demand the federal reunification of Cyprus and reject Ankara's interference in Northern Cypriot affairs. Is neo-Ottomanism meeting with serious resistance in Northern Cyprus?”

Dialogos (CY) /

Inaction sealing the partition

The Turkish Cypriot authories opened up Varosha to tourists last year and began the renovation of the area. This is now the result of Nicosia's policy, Dialogos criticises:

“Unfortunately, we are paying the price for the inaction of President Anastasiadis and his disastrous policies of the last eight years. ... Not only were no forward-looking steps taken and Turkey's uncompromising stance accepted without criticism, but on top of that there was a serious setback and a deviation from the key requirements for a solution to the Cyprus problem. ... Time is running out because things are happening that cannot be reversed. Before we know it, Varosha will be lost. And instead of being a key to an overall solution, it will become the key to the final partition - with the approval of Nikos Anastasiadis!”

Ta Nea (GR) /

A triple front needed

Athens must close ranks against Ankara, Ta Nea urges:

“Given Ankara's revisionist (and expansionist) geopolitical stance, it is exceptionally important not to come across as split or divided and to be united in confronting Turkey's destabilising moves. ... Greece must create a triple, solid front. Firstly, all the political forces in Greece must agree on a joint front. The second common front is that of Athens and Nicosia. ... The third crucial front is Athens-Nicosia-Brussels. Here, it must be made perfectly clear that the Cyprus problem is not a bilateral issue but rather an international issue involving the territorial integrity of the EU.”

Takvim (TR) (TR) /

Act first, then comes the diplomacy

Turkey has become an important international player in recent years, so its Cyprus initiative is only logical, the pro-government daily Takvim writes:

“It's not surprising that in view of its increasing influence in the region and the world Turkey now also wants to make a move regarding Northern Cyprus. It doesn't need anyone's permission to do so. Just as it didn't need permission in Syria, Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean or Nagorno-Karabakh, and this will be the same in Northern Cyprus. This does not mean acting irresponsibly or ignoring the international community. But international relations have developed in a direction in which creating a de facto situation and using it to bring the other actors to the negotiating table is an efficient method.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Turkey wants to create room for negotiation

Economist Güven Sak comments on Ankara's negotiating position in Hürriyet Daily News:

“There seem to be some people who are outraged by the new Turkish line about a two-state solution and the opening of Varosha. What did they think would happen? Being shut out, the Turkish side needed to make alternative plans. The first rule of every negotiation is that you need to be able to walk away. If you ask me, the demand for a two-state solution is meant to bring the Greek Cypriots back to the table. This could be good for negotiations. Why? Because it could change the scale of the conflict.”