EU warns Erdoğan over push to open Cyprus ghost town

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The EU on Tuesday told Turkey to reverse plans to open up the Cypriot ghost town of Varosha, announced during a controversial visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the divided island, Agence-France Presse reported.

The 27-nation bloc, which includes the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, condemned “Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements” by Erdoğan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar to further open the former resort, abandoned since Ankara’s 1974 invasion of the island.

A statement issued by foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticized the plans 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.”

Varosha — once the playground of celebrities and dubbed a “Jewel of the Mediterranean” — has for decades been a fenced off ghost town, where former luxury hotels have become overgrown by weeds.

Erdoğan vowed that “life will restart in Varosha” as he took an uncompromising stance during a visit last week to mark 47 years since the invasion that split Cyprus.

The Turkish army restored public access to parts of the Varosha beachfront last year and since then a main thoroughfare, Demokratias Avenue, has also been cleared.

Erdoğan in a speech during his visit also insisted on a two-state solution for the island — an idea firmly rejected by EU member the Republic of Cyprus and Brussels.

The UN Security Council on Friday also condemned Erdoğan’s call for two states in Cyprus and the push to reopen the resort town emptied of Greek Cypriots.

The latest moves on Cyprus by Turkey risk derailing efforts to improve ties between Ankara and the EU after a spike in tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

The EU is dangling a string of enticements in front of Erdoğan, including billions of euros to help with refugees from Syria, if he makes good on pledges to mend fraught ties with the bloc.

Turkish troops seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an aborted coup in Nicosia aimed at attaching the country to Greece.

The island has since been divided between the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), recognized only by Turkey.

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