The US has rejected Ankara’s demands for a separate Turkish state on the island of Cyprus after Turkish Cypriot authorities announced plans to defy Greece and the UN by reopening the northern border town of Varosha.
Varosha, located on the border between Greek-Turkish-occupied Cyprus, has remained deserted since Turkish forces invaded the island in 1974 to avert a Greek Cypriot coup d’état. Although Varosha is on Turkish territory on the island, it has served as a buffer between that area and the Greek sector of the island, which is internationally recognized as Cyprus.
After visiting the island’s divided capital, Nicosia, the day before, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Wednesday that his government would only accept a two-state agreement. “Now the Turkish Cypriots’ only demand in international negotiations is recognition of the status of a sovereign state,” he declared. “All offers other than this one have expired.”
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However, he can expect little or no international support. A senior US diplomat told Reuters shortly afterwards that Washington is against such a deal, and Secretary of State Tony Blinken previously condemned Turkey’s planned reopening of Varosha and called on Erdogan to reverse his decision.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said earlier this month that the EU “never” accept a two-state solution. Turkey is currently the only country to recognize the existence of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Varosha was once the center of the Cypriot tourist industry and before the Turkish invasion there were about 17,000 Gerek Cypriots. Since then it has been cordoned off by barricades and barbed wire, and patrolled by some of the approximately 35,000 Turkish troops stationed in Northern Cyprus. The UN’s position on Varosha is that it should come under the control of international peacekeepers until Cyprus can be reunited as a federation or a power-sharing agreement is reached.
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While the peace talks of the past two decades have occasionally shown signs of progress towards this goal, relations between Greece, Turkey and their respective allies in Cyprus have taken a nosedive in recent years due to competing claims to the energy-rich waters around the island. Greece has repeatedly warned Turkey away from experimental oil drilling in the area, which Ankara has ignored while claiming its own territorial rights in the region.
“One way or another… we will conduct our oil exploration operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, Cyprus and all those seas,” Erdogan said that earlier this month, despite opposition and threats of sanctions from the EU.
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