The main reason for the decision to reopen Varosha/Maraş was to create pressure for South Cyprus to agree to power sharing and cooperation with the Turkish Cypriots, former chief negotiator and former Undersecretary to the Presidency, Ergun Olgun has said.
Noting that the town had been closed off for 46 years, he said, “This decision is an initiative aiming to encourage the Greek Cypriots to open the way for cooperation on the island and an important trigger for resolving the Cyprus conflict.
“The Greek Cypriot side abides the current status quo and they do not feel any pressure on them to share prosperity and power with the Turkish Cypriots. They act like representatives of the whole island and use this opportunity that the international community has given them against the Turkish Cypriots.
“Since the Greek side did not want to give up this advantage, all the negotiations held so far have been fruitless. Unfortunately, sharing of power was not achieved on the basis of political equality. After the Greeks acted on hydrocarbons alone, the Turkish side began its own searching activities. This process paved the way for the questioning of the policies carried out by the Greek side to date, and the calls made by the international companies that the Greeks licensed for searching.
“Now, these companies have question marks in their minds. It is necessary to evaluate the opening of Maraş with these developments. The Turkish side gave the Greek side the message, ‘As long as this status quo continues, there will be the costs you will pay, as with hydrocarbons.’ The Maraş decision is an initiative that aims to encourage the Greeks to open up cooperation on the island”, said Olgun.
Turkish Cypriot Side Wants to End Victimisation of Former Residents
Reminding that Maraş has been closed under the administration of North Cyprus since 1974, Olgun said that the UN Security Council issued resolutions determining that Maraş should be opened to former residents of the region and control of the region given over to UN.
“The TRNC closed this region after 1974 and turned it into a military zone. Therefore, this region was not a UN-controlled region nor intermediate region. Today, Maraş is under the control of the TRNC Security Forces Command.
“At the Denktaş-Kyprianou meeting in 1979, a consensus was reached that Maraş should be handled as a priority, within the framework of a bi-communal, bi-zonal solution proposal. However, this initiative was not implemented as the Greek side did not make an effort towards achieivng the federal solution.
“In 1993, the UN proposed reopening Maraş in exchange for the opening of Nicosia International Airport for common use. This proposal was also rejected by the Greeks. Finally, in 2004, within the UN Plan (Annan), Maraş would have been returned to the Greeks. That proposal was rejected by the Greeks.
“As a result, the Maraş issue was included in the negotiations in a way to benefit the Greeks, but no results were obtained due to the Greeks. Today, the Turkish Cypriot side does not want the former inhabitants of this region to be prisoners of this never–ending, frozen conflict.”
Paving The Way For Former Owners to Return to Maras and Reviving Tourism
“As you know, the Immovable Property Commission (IPC) was established in North Cyprus. Parties claiming their rights to immovable property in North Cyprus apply to this commission for their property and receive compensation, or exchange of a Turkish property in Southern Cyprus or the return of the property if it is not used. So while there is a mechanism that works for us, there is no such mechanism in South Cyprus. Now, we want to transfer this mechanism to Maraş. So there is a side to this process that is compatible with UN resolutions. What we are going to do is to demilitarize this area and open it to civilian administration and create the opportunity for its former owners to return here. It has a human dimension. We also want to increase the island’s tourism potential, benefiting both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.”
Reopening Maraş is a Catalyst For Peace in The Region
Reminding of the reaction of South Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to the Maraş plan, [Anastasiades said he would block UN funding to the Turkish Cypriots] Olgun said:
“They are reacting to this plan because they wanted the region to be given to them. The Greeks, who have rejected all the offers on Maraş to date, are uncomfortable with this decision today. However, this decision will make them rethink. The discomfort of the Greeks shows how correct is this step by the Turkish Cypriots. As in the hydrocarbon issue, the Turkish attitude in the Maraş issue serves as a trigger mechanism and a catalyst for resolving the conflict in Cyprus. This decision is a decision that can provide cooperation and peace on the island.”
Opening the Region Will Create Employment and Opportunities for Cooperation
Noting that the Maraş decision will have many positive effects, Olgun said:
“First, Maraş in the Famagusta region was a brand in the 1970s. Maraş has a very beautiful coastline, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. It is also close to the city. This may be reopening to tourism. Second, there may be an opportunity for cooperation with investors by the Greek Cypriots, as the former residents of Maraş can also use their property. This cooperation is an example between the parties. Employment opportunities will be created and people in both South Cyprus and North Cyprus will benefit from these opportunities. In short, this is a project that can open important doors in economic, political and social terms”.