The UN Security Council has condemned Turkey's latest actions in Cyprus. On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with other Turkish authorities, announced the reopening of Varosha. The district, which belongs to the town of Famagusta, has been closed since the 1974 war. Ankara's decision goes against UN resolutions in the area and also strains relations with Greece and thus the European Union.
"All actions already taken to alter the status of Varosha in contravention of the very clear provisions of these Council resolutions must be reversed without delay. The gravity of the events in Varosha, and their impact on peace in Cyprus, cannot be overstated," said Andreas Hadjichrysanthou, Cypriot representative to the UN.
Furthermore, the 15 countries of the Security Council have stated in a communiqué that "any attempt to settle any part of Varosha by persons other than its inhabitants is inadmissible". They also recalled that "these unilateral actions" contradict previous Council resolutions and statements, and called for the measures to be "fully implemented" while "respecting freedom of movement". Finally, the UN is committed to a "lasting, comprehensive and just solution that meets the wishes of the Cypriot people".
Unsurprisingly, Ankara has expressed its rejection of the Council's communiqué, considering that these statements "are based on assertions that are out of touch with the reality of the island".
"These statements are based on Greek Cypriot black propaganda and unfounded claims, such as that Maras (as the Turks refer to Varosha) is not the territory of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," Turkey explained in a statement. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a state only recognised by Turkey and presided over by Ersin Tatar, an Ankara ally who supports Erdogan's plans in the area. However, according to international media outlets such as AzerNews and Greek City Times, there are indications that Pakistan and Azerbaijan may recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in the near future. This "country" was created in 1983 after the partition of the island. The northern part of Nicosia, the world's last divided capital, is the economic and political centre of this state of limited recognition.
"This is unacceptable. It upsets or is an attempt to upset the 'status quo' of Famagusta, which is defined by Security Council resolutions. We will react appropriately," declared Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, has also criticised Erdogan's expansion plans, stressing that the two-state solution is forbidden and non-negotiable. The Turkish president, on the other hand, pointed out that "it is not possible to move forward in negotiations without recognising the existence of two peoples and two states".
Meanwhile, Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, expressed his "deep concern" over Erdogan's "unacceptable" announcements on the opening of the Varosha neighbourhood: "No action should be taken in relation to Varosha that is not in accordance with these resolutions. The EU continues to hold the Turkish government responsible for the situation in Varosha," Borrell added.
The French foreign ministry has commented on the matter, "deeply regretting this unilateral step". In addition, Jean-Yves Le Drian's ministry has called Turkey's decision a "provocation".
Greece, a traditional Turkish enemy, has followed Paris' lead and accused Turkey of seeking to expand its occupation of Cyprus in order to 'establish a new Ottoman authority'. Athens and Ankara have recently been at loggerheads over gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. "There can be no improvement in relations between Turkey and Greece and between Turkey and the European Union as long as Ankara acts illegally in Cyprus," warned Nikos Dendias, the Greek foreign minister.
The crisis in Cyprus has also reached the other side of the Atlantic. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned "the decision by Turkish Cypriots to seize parts" of the Famagusta district, which "is unacceptable and unconscionable".
The conflict in Cyprus dates back to 1960, when the UK granted independence to the Mediterranean island. The Cypriot population was a mixture of Turks and Greeks who had lived together for centuries. However, during the British occupation, as elsewhere, hatred and division began to grow among the mixed population. The terms Greek "Enosis" (unification with Greece) on the one hand and Turkish "Taksim" (division) on the other began to emerge, as the island suffered violent episodes in which the two peoples clashed. Such as the Cyprus Crisis between 1955 and 1964 in which more than 600 people died, or the Bloody Christmas of 1963.
Finally, on 15 July 1974, the Cyprus National Guard, led by Greek forces, staged a coup d'état aimed at annexing the island with Greece. Five days later, Turkey responded with a military offensive on Cyprus to defend the Turkish Cypriot community in case of persecution. As the British newspaper The Telegraph points out, 30,000 Turks were displaced before the invasion.
The intervention by Ankara succeeded in annexing more than 36% of Cypriot territory, creating the UN-administered Green Line that separates the two communities. As a result, mass migration began between the two populations, which remain divided today.
Many experts and analysts agree that Erdogan seeks to use Varosha to pressure the EU and the US for economic and trade benefits. Likewise, this decision is aimed at negotiations to achieve Turkey's long-awaited two-state plan.