Can Europe Make It?

Varosha and political ineptitude

It seems that Varosha has not only been abandoned by the United Nations and by the European Union but also by the Cyprus government.

Andreas C Chrysafis
26 October 2020
Ghosts of Famagusta
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Andreas C Chrysafis. All rights reserved.

During the EU’s Special Foreign Affairs Summit in Brussels (October 1-2) both Cyprus and Greece were politically outmanoeuvred and convinced to make a U-turn on their intentions to secure EU sanctions against Turkey. They failed to use the power of their veto to change the course of political events to their advantage in their national interests.

A unanimous decision during the previous EU Summit last June, the leaders agreed to enforce sanctions against Turkey at the October Summit. Both Greece and Cyprus anticipated the EU would finally take a stand against Turkey’s military provocations and support member-states.

It was not to be. Driven by political and financial self-interests, some EU members refused to employ sanctions on Turkey this time around and decided for a postponement to December instead. Meanwhile a furious Erdogan warned the European Union of “serious repercussions” if they dared to impose sanctions on Turkey in favour of pirate states – meaning Cyprus.

The main objective of the Leaders Summit was to secure sanctions against 40 Belarusian officials accused of vote rigging and political repression but not the President of Belarus; also EU/China relations and Turkey’s provocation in the Eastern Mediterranean. The threat of veto by the Greek alliance could seriously jeopardize EU plans, for without a unanimous decision there could be no sanctions! The outcome of such a dissent would be a humiliating defeat for the bureaucratic institution.

The Greeks argued that a two-tier EU foreign policy could not be accepted in a democratic institution and insisted they will veto all proposed sanctions on Belarus unless Turkey also received the same treatment approved, at the June Summit. A stalemate ensued.

Political skulduggery

The threat of defeat was very real and political skulduggery commenced behind the scenes. Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel – a powerful ally of Turkey – and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen insisted that a unanimous vote for sanctions was critical at the Summit. Subsequently, the political arm-twisting against the Greek alliance escalated.

Fierce political haggling and juggling ensued in the dark corridors of power, for they could not allow a small island to jeopardize their greater plans. But, little Cyprus – small fry indeed – was quickly gobbled up by EU piranhas.

Germany holding the revolving EU presidency came up with a convincing plan for both Greece and Cyprus. But, for the plan to succeed, they needed a political deviation of sorts and persuaded Ankara to withdraw its illegal exploration drilling ship Oruc Reis from Greek waters.

The move would allow “negotiations” to start between Greece and Turkey and reduce the risk of a military conflict. Oruc Reis returned to Turkey for “maintenance purposes but without any guarantees not to issue another Navtex and return if necessary.

Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis joined in the political skulduggery and agreed to abandon Greece’s veto on Belarus. Pleased with the result, Chancellor Merkel and Mitsotakis went on to influence President Anastasiades.

Presented with a cleverly worded EU statement without substance, soon President Anastasiades had also forsaken the idea of a Cyprus veto.

The statement reassured him that: “The EU strongly condemns the violations of the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus and will review Turkey’s behaviour in December and impose sanctions if its provocations have not stopped.” It was also announced that “a five-party negotiations” to resolve the Cyprus issue would be scheduled under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The door of the trap was then shut and little Cyprus opened the way for EU sanctions against Belarus. A similar EU tactic was employed in the past when Cyprus decided to vote for sanctions (instead of abstaining) against Ukraine. The Anastasiades decision triggered immediate retaliation by Russia and imposed trade sanctions against Cyprus.

Varosha

No sooner had the ink dried on the paper than Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan, smug about having escaped EU sanctions, again went on the offensive and announced his next bombshell: Varosha with its closed off beach area would be reopened and re-inhabited under Turkish Administration on the 8th of October 2020 and this is only the beginning!”

Erdogan’s declaration regarding the occupation of Varosha took the world by surprise but especially the government of Cyprus who were caught napping.

Another new Navtex was immediately issued by Ankara and Oruc Reis went back to northwest of Kastellorizo in the Aegean to restart its provocations against Greece, escalating the fears of a military standoff. Meanwhile the Barbaros drilling vessel, was re-diverted and ordered to continue its illegal activities deep inside Cyprus’s territorial waters in plots licensed by France and Italy.

Erdogan has in fact made a mockery of the EU and the UN for trusting his sly diplomacy in Turkey’s attempt to avoid sanctions. Like a cunning fox he has certainly succeeded.

Under Attila Plan B, the opening of Varosha by Erdogan has now diminished all hopes for the reunification of Cyprus. The decision by Greece and Cyprus to abandon their powerful veto as a political means to ensnare Turkey at the Summit has turned out to be political suicide.

On considering Erdogan’s revelations, the UN Security Council (UNSC) responded immediately and called for a “reversal of the decision by Turkey to open the coastline in the fenced-off area of Varosha and to adhere to UN Resolutions.”

Turkey has never respected a single UN Resolution in the past and was not about to start now, especially when it involves geopolitical interests and billions and billions of Cyprus’ natural gas revenues.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus government is faced with a dilemma – to negotiate or not to negotiate. To trust UN/EU or not. Not to negotiate under “five-party negotiations” also brings new dangers. Cyprus could be entering a one-way maze without a way out and be confronted with another fait accompli. A dilemma indeed.

The Cyprus Government’s decision to abandon its veto during the Summit to compel the EU and impose trade sanctions against Turkey, exhibited short sightedness and a half-hearted diplomacy. Instead, the President tried to justify his decision to the country as to why it was necessary to make a U-Turn at the last minute. Mr Anastasiadesstumbled his way thorugh an explanation: “the Cyprus objective at the EU Summit had never been sanctions in themselves but the termination of Turkey’s illegal actions”. Clearly that strategy did not work and failed miserably, but did offer Erdogan the opportunity for occupying and opening Varosha.

Las Vegas of the Med

After 46 years the ghost town of Varosha will come back to life again under Turkey’s control and populated by wealthy Turkish nationals from the mainland. Since no gambling is allowed in Turkey, Varosha will be transformed into the “Las Vegas of the Med” and become once again the playground of the rich and famous under the very noses of the Greeks.

As for the thousands of Varoshiotes and refugees longing to return to their ancestral homes, that possibility now appears gravely remote. It seems that Varosha has not only been abandoned by the United Nations, (after passing 2547 resolutions condemning Turkey’s invasion and human rights violations) and by the European Union, but also by the Cyprus government that has so far failed to deal with Turkey’s aggression.

Consequently, after the October 18 Turkish Cypriot election results, things will never be the same again. Erdogan has personally made sure that a separatist candidate supported by the terrorist Grey Wolves group was elected to office. When balloting was over, 53% of the Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers, voted for a “two-state-solution” led by their nationalist new leader Ersin Tatar – Ankara’s latest puppet.

Meanwhile, Sultan Erdogan has warned everyone that: “he would do what he wishes in the Eastern Mediterranean and nobody can stop him and he will chop anyone’s hand off if they try to get in his way”. Such intimidations are well-suited to a bully and a thug but not to a leader of another country.

With such threats and military provocations in the region, the Republic of Cyprus now faces an uncertain future indeed.

This article comes from the author's Revolution of the Mind Series. The accompanying painting is also by the author. He writes: "This emotional painting represents the 'past and present' of a beautiful city abandoned 46 years ago and held hostage ever since the Turkish military invasion of Cyprus. Ghosts of Famagusta depicts its famous beaches and seaside. During its heyday Varosha/Famagusta was not only one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world but a favourite playground of celebrities, kings and queens, the rich and famous. Today, deserted and in total ruin, it continues to crumble under the wrath of time with no one coming to its rescue."

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