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US condemns Erdoğan-backed plans to transfer parts of Varosha to Turkish Cypriot control

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken AFP

The United States on Tuesday said it condemned Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans for a coastal resort emptied of its original Greek Cypriot residents to be partially reopened under Turkish Cypriot control, Agence France-Presse reported.

“This move is clearly inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789, which explicitly call for Varosha to be administered by the United Nations,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Speaking at a parade on Tuesday to mark the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s invasion that divided the Mediterranean island, Erdoğan backed Turkish Cypriot plans to reopen part of Varosha, effectively handing over control from the Turkish military and changing the status quo, in defiance of UN resolutions.

“The doors of a new period that will benefit everyone will open in Varosha,” Erdoğan said.

Turkish Cypriot leader Tatar, who is close to Erdoğan and supports a two-state solution rather than the federation long sought in UN-led negotiations, said an initial 3.5 percent of Varosha would “be removed from its military status.”

Erdoğan said this showed “how sensitively Turkish Cypriot authorities are approaching the issue.”

But the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell slammed any such move as “an unacceptable unilateral decision.”

Once a playground that hosted Hollywood celebrities, Varosha was for decades a derelict ghost town, fenced off by soldiers and kept as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

But the Turkish army restored public access to parts of its beachfront last year, weeks ahead of Tatar’s election.

The UN Security Council responded by calling for a reversal of the decision and “for the parties to avoid any unilateral action that could raise tensions on the island”

Erdoğan visited Varosha the following month in a move denounced by the Republic of Cyprus as a “provocation without precedent.”

Since then a major thoroughfare has been cleared and workers raced to spruce up the street ahead of a possible second visit.

Erdoğan insisted that moves to revive the town would respect property rights.

“We don’t have an eye on anyone’s land, rights or property, but nobody can touch the rights of Turkey or the KKTC,” he said.

The internationally recognized government in Nicosia has stressed that Varosha is a “red line”, and strongly condemned Erdoğan’s previous visit to northern Cyprus.

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