The report in Turkish daily Milliyet naturally drew strong reactions from the Greek Cypriot side, which said any proposals, which violated UN resolution would be rejected.
“Actions that aim to create impressions and go beyond decisions of the international organisation [UN] or violate them are not accepted by the Greek Cypriot side,” said Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou.
Turkey and the north remained silent about the reports for much of the day yesterday.
Later however Eroglu said: “Claims about Varosha are speculation. It would not be right to take steps on an issue that is part of ongoing negotiations for a comprehensive settlement.” However he added that Varosha was an “inseparable part of the TRNC”.
The reports in Milliyet quoting “diplomatic sources”, said the proposal for opening the currently fenced-off town of Varosha was put to the Turkish government by Eroglu and his negotiating team at a meeting in the Turkish capital on March 13.
The paper added while Ankara’s officials had been “taken by surprise” by the proposal, they had agreed to the idea of allowing Greek Cypriot tenants, banned from the area since 1974, to return to their former homes under Turkish Cypriot administration.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Turkish Cypriot ‘foreign minister’ Huseyin Ozgurgun declined to confirm or deny the rumours, but said, “I do not want to be specific, but after July 1, we will be taking a radical approach; all kinds of new measures can be expected”.
Ozgurgun said the “radical approach” would be implemented if ongoing reunification talks bore no fruit before the Cyprus Republic takes on the presidency of the EU on July 1. Both Turkey and the north have said talks will come to a “natural end” on that date because Cyprus will take on the EU presidency – something they say precludes the continuation of talks. A presidential election in the Republic in February next year would also stand in the way of effective talks, they say.
According to the Milliyet article, the proposal was accompanied by a call for a list to be drawn up of disenfranchised Greek Cypriot owners from the once-bustling tourist resort and is part of a “new strategy for Cyprus” that will be put into action after July 1 when the Republic of Cyprus will take on the presidency of the EU.
Turkey has said it will freeze negotiations on Cyprus’ reun ion, ongoing since September 2008, during Cyprus’ six-month presidency. The article however also pointed to disagreement between Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over whether or not negotiations should be put on hold. Erdogan thinks they should, while Gul appears to believe freezing them could cause unnecessary damage to already-strained relations between Ankara and the EU. Turkey’s EU accession process, ongoing since 2004, has been effectively on hold due to blocks to the opening of numerous accession chapters.
The Milliyet report also said Turkish Cypriot negotiators, knowing Varosha was a important factor for the Greek Cypriot in the talks, had wanted to instigate movement in the stalled talks by putting the town back on the table. More likely, however, the move was prompted by fears on the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot side that refusing to negotiate after July 1 when Cyprus take over the presidency would reflect badly on them and are therefore seeking a way of softening what could be interpreted as a hard line approach.
By Simon Bahceli
Published on March 27, 2012