EU new deal: Return Maras and legalise Ercan

The European Union appears to be considering the idea of returning the abandoned town of Maras (Varosha) to the Greek Cypriots in return for ‘legalising’ the operation of Ercan airport in the TRNC.

The move would form part of the groundwork for a final settlement of the Cyprus problem, reports suggested.

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Sunday that it looked like Turkey had conveyed to Brussels that the move was possible although things were at a very early stage.

“But from the moment the Turkish side agrees for the European Commission to examine it … I think this is a big step,” Kasoulides told state broadcaster CyBC. “Something big regarding confidence must happen,” he added.

The Greek Cypriot side had in the past proposed opening Maras in exchange for opening the port of Famagusta under EU supervision.

‘Opening’ Ercan airport however could be much trickier.

Kasoulides said the operation of an international airport on republic territory could not be allowed “unless the matter of legality is sorted”. He did not elaborate any further and  the government would not comment on the issue yesterday.

“The president does not wish further public discussion on the matter of Varosha (Maras). Therefore, no comment,” deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said.

In 1974, Turkish forces sealed off Maras; a once highly popular holiday destination. The fact that it remains empty after so many years, with no one occupying its buildings, further aggravates the sense of injustice felt by its former inhabitants.

Main opposition AKEL asked for the issue to be discussed by the national council.

As a matter of principle, the party was not negative towards EU involvement, its spokesman said.

“The essence is what our positions are on the issue,” Giorgos Loukaides added.

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