The move to reopen a public beachfront, backed by Turkey, comes amid escalating tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Northern Cyprus Beach Reopening Stokes Regional Tensions
… Authorities in Northern Cyprus have reopened a beach that until Thursday had been closed to the public since 1974, when the island was partitioned after Turkey’s invasion. The move to reopen part of the beachfront in Varosha, which was supported by Turkey, the unrecognized territory’s patron, will likely fuel tensions in the eastern Mediterranean. It also threatens to derail efforts to restart peace talks between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus and the breakaway northern territory.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and European Union foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell have both expressed concern about the move. “For sure, this is not going to help. On the contrary, it’s going to make it more difficult to reach an agreement on an especially difficult situation for all of us on the Eastern Mediterranean,” Borrell said. The U.N. Security Council is set to discuss the issue during a closed session on Friday at the request of Cyprus.
Peace talks hosted by the United Nations are expected shortly after presidential elections in Northern Cyprus on Sunday. Tensions have flared in the region in recent months over competing claims to gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea. Last week, the EU threatened to impose sanctions on Turkey—a NATO ally—if it didn’t halt drilling and energy exploration efforts in waters claimed by Cyprus and Greece.
After years of ethnic tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Turkey invaded the island in 1974 following a coup by Greek army officers who sought to unite Cyprus with Greece. Turkish troops eventually seized 36 percent of the island. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus unilaterally declared its independence in 1983, but it is only recognized by Ankara. More than 35,000 Turkish troops are based there.
Once considered the “French Riviera of Cyprus,” Varosha attracted the likes of Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and Brigitte Bardot. But the resort’s Greek Cypriot residents fled when Turkish troops approached 46 years ago, with once-thriving hotels and restaurants left to fall into disrepair. A 1984 U.N. Security Council resolution prohibited resettlement in the area. …
Amy Mackinnon is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @ak_mack