Erdogan plans picnic at reopened Cypriot ghost town

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday said he would visit on November 15 a beach resort sealed off for decades in northern Cyprus before it controversially reopened this month.

A suburb of the historic city of Famagusta, Varosha was Cyprus’s premier resort in 50 years ago, popular with Hollywood stars, until the Turkish invasion which saw Greek Cypriot inhabitants flee in 1974.

The restoration of access to the ghost town of Varosha caused Greek Cypriot anger but boosted Turkish nationalist Ersin Tatar who won this month’s leadership election against the incumbent Mustafa Akinci.

During Tatar’s first visit to Ankara since his victory, Erdogan said he would visit the Turkish-controlled northern third of Cyprus next month.

“We can have a picnic at Varosha,” Erdogan told a press conference in Ankara.

“We see it on screen, now we want to see it for ourselves,” Erdogan added.

The reopening was widely criticised by the Republic of Cyprus, which controls the south of the island and is internationally recognised, and by the European Union.

Tatar served as prime minister in the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) at the time of the two rounds of the election.

He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, a marked change from Akinci who backed reunification with the Greek-speaking majority.

The TRNC, now with a population of 300,000, was established after Turkey occupied the north in 1974 in reaction to a coup intended to annex Cyprus to Greece.

With peace talks failing, including the most recent in 2017, Erdogan said a solution to the island’s division would not be found without profound change, dismissing the prospect of a bi-zonal federation.

“I believe that a two-state solution should be brought to the table with a realistic approach,” he said.