The new Chairman of the British All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cyprus, Matthew Offord MP has requested that Foreign Secretary William Hague uses his influence with the Turkish government in favour of the proposal for the return Famagusta to the Greek Cypriots.
The Conservative MP who has a significant number of Cypriots living in his north London Hendon constituency states in his letter to William Hague that there are several areas where he believes the UK Government needs to renew its focus of attention, in order to seek a solution for the divided island.
As he remarks, a significant issue is that of the town of Famagusta and the Varosha district. “Since the illegal invasion of Turkey in 1974 the district has been completely abandoned.
In 1984 the United Nations passed Resolution 550 declaring that any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants [is] inadmissible. Since Turkish settlers haven’t been able to settle in Varosha, the entire area remains frozen in time,” Offord said.
In reference to Famagusta’s contribution to the country’s economic activity pre-1974, he said that the city, “far exceeded its proportional dimensions within the country”. Famagusta possessed over 50% of the total hotel accommodation of Cyprus and it also offered a substantial deep-water port handling 83% of the total general cargo and 49% of the total passenger traffic to and from the island.
“In 2010 the Global Heritage Fund published its report entitled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage which listed Famagusta as a ‘maritime ancient city of crusader kings’, among the 12 sites most on the verge of irreparable loss and destruction,” adds the north London MP.
In respect of the recent proposal of several confidence-building measures advanced by the newly elected Anastasiades government, Mr Offord points out that they include an offer to lift the Cypriot veto on certain subjects of Turkey’s accession chapters and permit trade through the Port of Famagusta under supervision of the EU, if Famagusta is returned to its inhabitants who fled in 1974.
“This is a viable proposal that will not only restore trust and reinvigorate the Cyprus peace process but will also improve trade to the island and assist in achieving measures necessary under the Ankara Protocol,” concludes the Chairman of the APPG for Cyprus.