‘Turkish Cyprus won’t let Greek Cypriots violate rights in East Med’

All potential steps against the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) will receive a response, Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu said Thursday, as he noted that Turkish Cypriots are not alone or helpless.

“The Greek Cypriots’ attempts to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean will never happen,” Ertuğruloğlu told Anadolu Agency (AA), adding that the Turkish Cypriots also have rights in the region.

I have suggested that the only way to solve the problem is by ensuring that all sides come together to evaluate how to share the resources in a fair manner, as suggested by the TRNC but ignored by the Greek Cypriots.

The TRNC foreign minister also said the European Union has been deceived by the Greek Cypriots, especially regarding their claims on the abandoned city of Varosha (Maraş) and the bloc has been acting like fanatics even when they know the facts.

Varosha is a suburb of Gazimağosa (Famagusta), a city that was Cyprus’ pre-1974 tourism hub thanks to its pristine beaches and modern hotels. Varosha was a famous resort area on the island that boasted a capacity of 10,000 beds across more than 100 hotels. Turkish military forces intervened on the island following a Greece-backed coup, stopping the yearslong persecution and violence against Turkish Cypriots by ultra-nationalist Greek Cypriots. After Varosha’s 15,000 Greek Cypriot residents fled in the face of advancing Turkish troops, the area was fenced off to prevent any access until October 2019, when Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities announced its reopening.

Varosha was abandoned after a 1984 United Nations Security Council resolution saying that only its original inhabitants could resettle the town. Entry into the town was forbidden except for Turkish army personnel stationed in the TRNC. If the Greek Cypriots had accepted the 2004 UN Cyprus reunification plan, known as the Annan Plan, Varosha would now be back under Greek Cypriot control and its residents back in their homes. Despite this, the majority of Greek Cypriots voted against the plan, while Turkish Cypriots voted for it.

Varosha had virtually become a ghost town as it remained cut off from the world for some 47 years. A portion of the region – just about 3.5% of the total area – was reopened in October 2020, with people welcome to visit between 8 am and 8 pm daily. Since the reopening, Varosha has attracted both people living in the TRNC as well as foreign tourists, with the environment and landscape around the town also boosting its appeal.

Highlighting that the Turkish Cypriots will not step back from their determined stance regarding the equal status of the TRNC if new negotiations are to take place with the Greek Cypriots, Ertuğruloğlu said the UN is currently analyzing if there is a common ground between the two sides.

“Everybody knows that there is no common ground and I can confidently say that everyone knows there will be none,” he said.

The foreign minister continued by saying that the international community continues to discriminate against the Turkish Cypriots and that the decades-long issue can only be solved with a new approach.

“As long as the international community continues to treat Turkish Cypriots as part of the Greek “Cypriot Republic” there will be no new opening or a negotiation process,” the top diplomat said.

Ertuğruloğlu also said he does not see the lack of negotiations as a disadvantage, as he said becoming partners with the Greek Cypriots is not the only option for Turkish Cypriots.

“We look to the future with hope because Turkey, which we consider the most important state in the world, stands beside us,” he said.

The island of Cyprus has been mired in a decadeslong struggle between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement. Five decades of Cyprus talks have yielded no results.

The island has been divided since 1964 when ethnic attacks forced the Turkish Cypriots to retreat into enclaves for their safety. In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aiming at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power. The TRNC was founded in 1983.

The Greek Cypriot administration, backed by Greece, became a member of the EU in 2004, although in a referendum that year most Greek Cypriots rejected a United Nations settlement plan that envisaged a reunited Cyprus joining the bloc.

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