Cyprus slams Turkey's move to open ghost town's beach

Cyprus slams Turkey’s move to open ghost town’s beach

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus on Tuesday strongly condemned Turkey’s decision to open to the public a beach that’s been closed since the war of 1974 that divided the island along ethnic lines, a move that could hinder efforts to resume stalled peace talks.

Government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said formal protests will be lodged at the United Nations, the European Union and other international organizations over the move to allow access to the beach in front of fenced-off Varosha, a suburb of Famagusta that’s been abandoned for 46 years.

Koushos said the move contravenes international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions on Varosha.

Turkey said it’s just the beach being opened on Thursday, and the ghost town itself will be left alone for now.

The suburb’s Greek Cypriot residents fled as Turkish troops advanced on the suburb during the war. Turkey’s invasion, prompted by a coup aimed at union with Greece, split Cyprus along ethnic lines. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot state in the north and keeps more than 35,000 troops there.

In a 1984 resolution, the U.N. Security Council said it considers attempts to settle any part of Varosha – Maras in Turkish – by anyone other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the area to be transferred under U.N. administration.

The beachfront’s opening was jointly announced during a news conference in Ankara on Tuesday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ersin Tatar, the head of the Turkish Cypriot government.

“We hope that Maras will be fully opened for use,” Erdogan said. “We are ready to provide every support to the (Turkish Cypriot) authorities in this regard,”

Erdogan said because it’s only beachfront that belongs to the Turkish Cypriot state, the rights of Varosha’s Greek Cypriot property owners aren’t being violated.

The announcement came five days before Turkish Cypriots vote for a new leader to represent them in planned peace talks. U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres said he would call a meeting of the two sides in Cyprus as well as officials from the island’s ‘guarantors’ – Greece, Turkey and Britain – to scope out chances for resuming negotiations that had remained frozen since 2017.

Tatar, who is also leader of the right-wing UBP party, is challenging incumbent leftist leader Mustafa Akinci who called out Turkey for meddling in the campaign to boost Tatar’s support ahead of the vote.

Akinci said Varosha’s opening should be in line with U.N. decisions and international law.

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Associated Press writer Suzan Frazer in Ankara contributed.

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