The process of reopening Varosha (Maraş), which was a ghost town for 46 years, has brought the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) political, tourism and economic benefits, said Turkish Cypriot president Ersin Tatar.
In a conversation with Anadolu Agency (AA) on the first anniversary of the beginning of the gradual opening of Varosha after 46 years, Tatar ruled out that the city would remain closed for another 46 years.
On the properties in the region, he said: “applicants at the Property Commission will be able to get their properties back. It is their choice for the Greeks to settle here again and bring them into the economy. They can come or sell if they want.”
Tatar explained that the process was a step taken with the support of Turkey, and added:
“The Varosha initiative was created by a change of policy. This policy change is that instead of a federal solution, which has not been successful for 50 years, we should now seek a two-state solution in Cyprus.”
Varosha was a famous resort on the island with a capacity of 10,000 beds in more than 100 hotels.
Turkish forces intervened on the island following a Greek-backed coup that ended the years of persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots.
The city of Varosha is protected by a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution of 1984, which states that the empty city can only be resettled by its original inhabitants.
If the Greek Cypriots had accepted the UN’s 2004 reunification plan for Cyprus, known as the Annan plan, Varosha would now be under Greek Cypriot rule and the inhabitants would live in their homes again.
Despite this, the majority of Greek Cypriots voted against the plan, while the Turkish Cypriots voted in favour.
After its partial opening on 8 October 2020, after remaining a “ghost town” for decades after Turkey’s 1974 peacekeeping operation on the island in response to a coup d’état in view of the annexation of Cyprus by Greece, Varosha has attracted both residents of the TRNC and foreign tourists.
The city is located in Northern Cyprus and was only accessible to Turkish army personnel stationed in the TRNC.
Cyprus has been involved in a dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for decades, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to reach a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks from the early 1960s forced the Turkish Cypriots to withdraw to enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup d’état aimed at the annexation of Greece led to the military intervention of Turkey as a guarantor power to protect the Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence, according to Turkish narrative.
In recent years there has been an occasional peace process, including a failed initiative in 2017 in Switzerland under the auspices of the guaranteeing countries Turkey, Greece and the UK.