Turkey’s Erdogan Plans to Attend ‘Picnic’ in Cyprus Flash-Point
(Bloomberg) -- Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to attend a “picnic” next month in a flash-point town in the Turkish-controlled north of Cyprus, as he pushes for a two-state solution on the divided island.
Erdogan, speaking during a joint briefing with the newly elected president of the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, Ersin Tatar, dismissed talk of a federation with the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus as a “waste of time.”
With Ankara’s encouragement, the self-styled Turkish state this month opened a long strip of beach and the main street in Varosha to the public, ignoring warnings that the move could hinder reunification attempts.
It had been the island’s premier tourist resort before it was abandoned and sealed off following the Turkish takeover of northern Cyprus in the summer of 1974. Greek-speaking residents left the once upmarket suburb, sited next to the port of Famagusta.
Turkish-Cypriot authorities now want to redevelop it to win implicit international acceptance of the breakaway state’s control.
“I would like to have picnic in Varosha,” Erdogan said Monday. “I see it from television screens and I would like to personally experience it.” He’ll travel to the island on Nov. 15 to attend celebrations marking the anniversary of the foundation of the self-declared Turkish Cypriot state in 1983.
The move will further inflame relations with the Mediterranean island’s Greek-Cypriot administration and hobble a United Nations proposal to resume reunification talks.
The Cypriot government has said it will consider any attempt to unilaterally change Varosha’s status as a breach of Ankara’s international commitments and prevent unity talks.
The Mediterranean island -- less than half the size of New Jersey -- was fully divided in 1974 after Turkey intervened, capturing the northern third of the island, saying it intended to protect the minority Turkish Cypriots following an attempt by the military junta then ruling in Athens to unite the island with Greece.
Now the island has also been pitched into a spat over rights to developed energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
In the latest flareup, Turkey and Greece exchanged barbs on Sunday after Ankara announced it would conduct a seismic survey in an area of the Mediterranean that both claim.
That initially appeared to undercut goodwill created last week when they agreed to cancel their respective war games in an effort to ease tensions stoked by Turkish energy exploration.
Turkey said Monday, however, that a separate military exercise had been called off as a gesture.
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