UNITED NATIONS (PA) – A draft UN Security Council statement would call on Turkey and separatist Turkish Cypriots to reverse their decision to reopen a residential section of an abandoned suburb and avoid any unilateral action that could increase tensions on the divided Mediterranean island.
The 15 nations of the UN’s most powerful body were due to consider the statement the British drafted on Wednesday evening, and if there are no objections, it could be approved on Thursday.
The statement follows a closed-door briefing to the council on Wednesday by the outgoing UN special representative which focused on Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar’s announcement on Tuesday that a 3.5-kilometer section square (1.35 square miles) of the Varosha suburb would change from military to civilian control. He did so before a military parade attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.
The island was divided into a separatist Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south in 1974 following the invasion of Turkey which was sparked by a coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with the Greece.
Many rounds of UN-mediated talks aimed at reuniting Cyprus have ended in failure, with the latest attempt at a peace deal in July 2017 to end in acrimony. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres held informal talks with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in Geneva in April, which failed to make progress on the island’s future, but the chief of the UN said the talks would continue and “I’m not giving up.”
Varosha is a suburb of Famagusta, a city that was the tourist center of Cyprus before 1974 thanks to its pristine beaches and modern hotels. After the 15,000 Greek Cypriot residents of Varosha fled in the face of advancing Turkish troops, the area was fenced off to prevent access until last year, when Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities announced it was “reopening” .
Former residents of Varosha have denounced the latest move by the Turkish Cypriots and Turkey as an attempt to take advantage of their desperation over the future of the region and psychologically pressure them to sell their properties. Many Turkish Cypriots also condemned the move as undermining the ongoing efforts at reconciliation between the two communities.
The Security Council’s draft presidential statement would reiterate “that no action should be taken in relation to Varosha that does not comply with its resolutions.”
A resolution of May 11, 1984 declares that the Security Council “considers inadmissible any attempt to colonize part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants and calls for the transfer of this area to the United Nations administration”. A resolution of September 14, 1992 reiterates that in order to implement the 1984 resolution, the area under the control of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus should “be extended to include Varosha”.
The draft presidential statement underlines the importance of the implementation of Council resolutions “including the transfer of Varosha to the UN administration”.
He would also express his “deep concern” at Tuesday’s announcement “on the reopening of an area constituting 3.4% of the fenced area of Varosha and the resettlement of this same area”.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades called the move a veiled offer by Turkish Cypriots, backed by Turkey, to acquire more territory that could scuttle peace efforts and a violation of Council resolutions prohibiting any change in the status of the area. coastal.
Anastasiades heads the internationally recognized Cypriot government in the south, which is a member of the European Union, unlike Turkey.
Both Erdogan and Tatar have said that a permanent peace in Cyprus can only come from the recognition by the international community of two separate states, ending decades of negotiations to reach a federation-based reunification agreement.
The draft presidential declaration would reaffirm the commitment of the Security Council “to a lasting, comprehensive and just settlement in accordance with the wishes of the Cypriot people and based on a bicommunal and bi-horizontal federation with political equality, as indicated in the resolutions. of the Security Council.
Earlier this year, Secretary-General Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic had created long-standing rifts within and between the island’s two communities. He also highlighted the rising tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean region over oil and gas exploration and the demarcation of maritime borders.
Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Wednesday that Guterres was “deeply concerned” by the Turkish Cypriot announcement regarding Varosha.
The UN chief “has repeatedly called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions which cause tensions and could undermine ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties for a settlement of the Cyprus issue, “he said.
Haq said the UN position on Varosha is unchanged and follows Security Council resolutions.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call on Wednesday for Turkish Cypriots and Turkey to overturn the Varosha decision.
Price called their actions “provocative, unacceptable and inconsistent with their past commitments to engage constructively in settlement talks.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Tuesday reaffirmed the bloc’s commitment to reunification based on “a bi-zonal and bicommunal federation with political equality”.