Erdoğan entrenching divide on Cyprus, columnist says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is entrenching the divide on Cyprus, disregarding the reactions of the government of the Mediterranean island, Greece and the rest of the world, analyst Zvi Bar’el said in the Israeli Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday.

Last week, Erdoğan and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart Ersin Tatar announced plans to re-open additional parts of Varosha, a vacated and fenced-off resort town located in the eastern Cypriot city of Famagusta, inviting former residents to return.

The Turkish authorities plan to lift the military status for part of the town, and 3.5 percent of the area will be granted civilian status, Tatar and Erdoğan said.

Those who fled Varosha in 1974 have the option to ask for compensation for their property remaining on the Turkish side, Bar’el said.

“Several thousand of them have submitted claims for compensation or property restitution, but only a fraction of these claims, around 1,000, have been settled,” he said.

The main obstacle in this lengthy and exhausting process is getting the necessary documents from official agencies in Greek Cyprus “whose government discourages filing such claims on the grounds that the issue of the abandoned property can be resolved only once a comprehensive diplomatic solution is found”, Bar’el said.

Cyprus was divided along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey occupied the northern third of the island in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup backed by the military junta then ruling Greece. It keeps about 30,000 troops in the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

“The government's fear is that Turkey could treat the property compensation as legitimising or implying consent to its continued occupation of the island and depict Greek Cypriots from the occupied area as refugees in their own homeland rather than its owners,” Bar’el said.
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