The National Unity Party of Turkish Cyprus has announced that it plans to strip the abandoned city Varosha (called “Maraş” in Turkish) of its military zone status.
“When the new government is formed, one of the first decisions that will be taken is to strip the status of here as the military zone,” UBP MP Oğuzhan Hasipoğlu told Turkish media outlets on Nov. 20.
In October, the People’s Party (HP) announced its withdrawal from the coalition government with the UBP, saying that they had not been consulted on the decision to reopen Varosha.
The UBP currently holds 21 seats in the 50-seat Turkish Cyprus parliament but requires five more seats to be able to form a government, which is why it is now holding talks with other parties.
In October, Northern Cyprus partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a move criticized by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots. Varosha has been off-limits along ceasefire lines to all but the Turkish military since 1974 and has stood as a bargaining chip in the decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
UBP MP Hasipoğlu said that Turkish Cyprus will gradually open Varosha for settlement. He said that 355 Greek Cypriots have so far made applications to reclaim properties in Varosha. “Of these 335 applications, 95 of them want to sell their properties, whereas 242 of them want to get back their properties,” he said, adding that the city will need extensive urbanization projects.
“When we were opening here [Varosha], we said that here is our land and will be under our sovereignty. As per the laws that we will bring forward, they [Greek Cypriots] will be able to claim back their properties and open them for business. This opening will be for the benefit of the whole island,” he said.