Varosha, Cyprus. Photo source: Wikimedia Commons / Yolanda Demetriou
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s latest antics including an announcement this week to re-open and re-settle the formerly invaded, abandoned and currently military-controlled Varosha on the anniversary of 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus has triggered the reaction of the EU, the UK and the US.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said Turkey was once again violating EU Council resolutions, adding that these actions were a veiled attempt to acquire more Cypriot territory bringing any effort for peace to a grinding halt.
Earlier this month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would “never, ever” accept a two state deal on Cyprus, reiterating that if Turkey ever wanted to join the Union it would have to abide by its rules.
However, despite repeated aggressive actions by Turkey against Greece and Cyprus, including regular air space violations and the conversion of the church and museum of Hagia Sophia – an UNESCO World Heritage site – into a mosque, US, UK and EU policymakers have still not imposed sanctions but instead merely issued warnings.
Erdogan was in Cyprus to mark the 47th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of the northern part of the island nation, where Turkey continues to keep more than 35,000 troops in a state only recognized by Ankara.
“The EU remains fully committed to the comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant UNSC Resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded and expects the same of Turkey,” said the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell. Cyprus is an EU member, and Turkey is not, he said on Tuesday.
The United States also condemned Erdogan’s announcements describing “actions in Varosha, with the support of Turkey, as provocative, unacceptable and incompatible with their past commitments to engage constructively in settlement talks”.
“The United States is working with like-minded partners to refer this concerning situation to the UN Security Council and will urge a strong response,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.
It is reminded that more than 39,000 Cypriots were forced to flee their homes in Varosha, in the southern suburb of Famagusta – also known as Ammochostos – in 1974, when Turkish forces invaded the island nation. Since then it has remained a no-man’s land with Turkish military forces keeping the city fenced off to its former residents.
“The root cause of the Cyprus problem is Turkey’s illegal invasion in 1974 and occupation of the northern part of the island ever since. Thus, there is no room for any ‘alternative’ settlement. There is only one legitimate framework for the settlement of the Cyprus Question and that is the one established by the UN Security Council Resolutions,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The Greek foreign ministry also condemned the move, and permanent member of the UN Security Council the UK said it would be bringing the issue as a matter of urgency to the Council.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Famagusta Mayor Simos Ioannou said Tuesday’s announcement was aimed at testing Greek Cypriots’ resolve about holding on to their properties.