The European Union (EU) has blasted as “unacceptable” the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “two-state” plan for the resolution of disputes over the divided island of Cyprus.
Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, voiced deep concern on Tuesday after Erdogan said peace talks can take place only between “the two states” on the Mediterranean island and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar announced plans for reopening the abandoned Cypriot resort town of Varosha.
“The High Representative of the European Union expresses his deep concern over the announcements made by President Erdogan and Mr. Tatar on 20 July 2021, with respect to the fenced-off area of Varosha, which constitutes an unacceptable unilateral decision to change the status of Varosha,” Borrell said in a statement.
“The EU once again underlines the need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise a return to talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue,” he added.
The EU foreign policy chief also expressed concern in a tweet, saying the Turkish plan for Cyprus “risks raising tensions on the island and compromising return to talks on a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue.”
The reaction came after Erdogan paid a visit to Varosha on Tuesday to mark the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s 1974 invasion that split Cyprus, vowing that “life will restart” in the former resort.
Varosha , the playground of celebrities and dubbed a “jewel of the Mediterranean”, has been left a fenced off ghost town for the past decades after the invasion.
Turkey launched an operation on July 20, 1974 to presumably protect the island’s Turkish Cypriot community following a Greek-backed military coup to annex Cyprus. Cyprus has since been divided into the Turkish Cypriot-controlled northern and the Greek Cypriot-controlled southern territories.
Greek Cypriots run the island’s internationally-recognized government, while Turkish Cypriots have a breakaway state in the north and claim the offshore resources there.
Turkish plan draws rebuke from Greek Cypriots, UK
Also on Tuesday, Erdogan’s “two-state” solution for the island was firmly rejected by Greek Cypriots, with Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades censuring the move as “illegal and unacceptable.”
“I want to send the strongest message to Mr. Erdogan and his local proxies that the unacceptable actions and demands of Turkey will not be accepted,” Anastasiades said.
Greece’s foreign ministry also said it condemned the move “in the strongest terms.”
The United Kingdom, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, said it would be discussing the issue as a matter of urgency with other Council members, saying it was “deeply concerned,” and calling “on all parties not to take any actions which undermine the Cyprus settlement process or increase tensions on the island.”
Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been embroiled in a long-running territorial dispute in the eastern Mediterranean over the region’s resources.
Disagreements over Cyprus, refugee flows, and oil and gas drilling rights in the Mediterranean have deepened.
EU comments on Cyprus ‘null and void’: Turkey
Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry dismissed statements from the EU foreign policy chief on Cyprus as “null and void” and said Brussels had no role to play in settling the decades-old dispute.
The ministry said in a statement that Borrell’s criticism of Turkey showed he was “acting as spokesperson or advocate for the Greek Cypriot administration and Greece who abuse their right to veto within the EU.”
The Turkish foreign ministry said Borrell’s statement was “another proof of how much the EU is disconnected from the realities on the Cyprus issue,” adding that with this approach the bloc cannot play any positive role in solving the problem.
The ministry also said Ankara extended “full support” for Turkish Cypriot authorities’ decision on the issue of Varosha.