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EU warns Turkey against plan to open Cyprus ghost town

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A car drives past a dilapidated building in the fenced-off area of Varosha in Famagusta town in the divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on July 16, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

The European Union (EU) has warned Turkey against opening up the abandoned Cypriot town of Varosha, criticizing the plan as a breach of United Nations resolutions.

The 27-member bloc raised the alarm in a statement on Tuesday after the decision to open the former resort was announced by the Turkish Cypriot leader and the Turkish president during the latter’s last week visit to the divided island of Cyprus.

The statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemned “Turkey's unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements.”

Borrell slammed the Turkish plan as breaching a series of United Nations resolutions and said the EU would consider using "instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also censured the plan on Tuesday and said, "The new Turkish illegal actions in Cyprus must be condemned unequivocally.”

The latest declarations undermined UN resolutions and the efforts of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to resolve the long-running dispute over the division of the island, he added.

Last Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Varosha — a Turkish military zone and an area on the island touted in the past to have been returned to rival Greek Cypriots — and vowed that "life will restart" there.

Erdogan's remarks drew condemnation from Greece and the UN Security Council.

Cyprus was divided into a breakaway Turkish-Cypriot-controlled territory in the north and an internationally-recognized Greek-Cypriot territory in the south in July 1974, when Turkey launched an operation to presumably protect the island's Turkish-Cypriot community following a Greek-backed military coup to annex the island.

Numerous rounds of UN-brokered talks aimed at reuniting the island have ended in failure, with the last push for a peace deal in July 2017 ending in acrimony, while Turkey has persistently repeated its call for a "two-state" solution on the island despite international criticism.

Varosha, which is a suburb of the town of Famagusta in the Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, was once the playground of celebrities and dubbed a "jewel of the Mediterranean."

However, an estimated 17,000 Greek-Cypriot residents of the area fled the advance of Turkish troops back in August 1974. Since then, the area has turned into a ghost town, sealed off with barbed wire and no-entry signs.

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