Any mutually agreed confidence building measures in Cyprus would be welcome, the UN said. Meanwhile the Greek Cypriot government was seeking ways to counter Turkish actions, including the opening of the fenced-off town of Varosha.
The UN Secretary-General’s deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq said there had been UN plans in the past involving the opening of Varosha but none came to fruition.
“There has been no agreement on those in the past,” he said during the daily briefing in New York. “Obviously, if the parties are willing to consider new confidence‑building measures, that will be welcome, but we have to see what they are willing to do.”
However, the spokesman refused to speculate on how the UN would act do if the moves were unilateral.
“I don’t want to engage in hypotheticals. The basic point is we would welcome any confidence‑building measures that are mutually agreed among the sides.”
Turkish and Turkish Cypriot sources have confirmed that the issue of opening Varosha was on the agenda.
According to Turkish daily ‘Milliyet’, the decision taken on Wednesday, to allow the former occupants of three Maronite villages to return, was a rehearsal for the unilateral opening of Varosha under Turkish Cypriot administration.
Greek Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said the government was drafting a legal document to explain that the opening up of the fenced-off area of Varosha in Famagusta is tantamount to “expanding the [Turkish] occupation.”
Regarding the decision on the Maronite villages, Kasoulides said the government could not stop any Maronite from going back. “If Turkey genuinely cared about the Maronites, it would allow them to return under Greek Cypriot administration,” he said.
However, the Greek Cypriot presidential commissioner Fotis Fotiou conceded that the government already had a plan in place for resettlement of the Maronite villages.
In January, Fotiou said over 100 people had been approved to settle in Kormakitis [Korucam]. On Thursday, he said they were processing an additional 100 to 150 applications.
Ayia Marina [Gurpinar], Asomatos [Özhan], and Karpasia are the three Maronite villages controlled by the Turkish military since 1974.
Ayia Marina and Asomatos remained closed off, while Karpasia is also under military control but residents are allowed to live there.
The fourth Maronite village, Kormakitis is already inhabited by Maronites, and it is far easier for its residents to resettle there if they wish.
The head of the Asomatos community, Antonis Karahanas received the news with caution.
“We are waiting to get all the information as a community and look at the matter in cooperation with the government,” he told the Cyprus News Agency. “We have nothing tangiblle”.
He was echoed by the head of Ayia Marina community, Partelis Hadjifesas. An announcement will be made by the Maronite representative in a few days. “If the decision is negative, we cannot stop those wishing to return,” he said.