The Famagusta municipality will only endorse a return to the fenced-off town of Varosha [Maras] under the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, self-designated mayor Alexis Galanos said on Friday.
Galanos held a news conference and addressed recent news reports in the north which claimed the Turkish Cypriot side is preparing to open Varosha [Maras], fenced-off by the Turkish army since the 1974 “invasion”, to its legal residents.
Initial reports claimed that the town would be opened but remain under the control of the Turkish army, but later reports suggested the Turkish Cypriot side was pondering handing over control of the area to the United Nations prior to resettlement.
“The municipal council decided that the return to the town of Famagusta – the first of which is the return to the fenced-off town – will only be acceptable to us under the relevant resolutions of the Security Council,” Galanos said.
The Kyprianou-Denktash high-level agreement of 1979, he added, “is very clear in the priority for the return of Famagusta after talks on the constitutional and territorial chapters start”.
“Famagusta should have been returned all these years,” Galanos said.
“It was a priority. They haven’t respected this high-level agreement, raising questions of how much they respect certain agreements.”
Such return, he added, is “unfeasible”.
“How would they return? Under what circumstances? Is there infrastructure? [Turkish daily] Milliyet reported that it’s going to take five years and a few billion to rebuild Famagusta. How will they return?” the mayor asked.
“Will we just return to our homes under Turkish Cypriot administration, offering recognition at such a crucial point in the Cyprus problem? Erasing all other considerations? Accepting that it’s over, Turkish guarantees and Turkish troops remain forever?”
“We do not challenge anyone’s patriotism, he added, but we also have responsibilities toward the state.
“I understand the pain of the refugee who wants to go back home but this cannot be done under these circumstances,” he said.
This is an opportunity to bring the issue of Famagusta back to the forefront, he said.
“We are determined to lead a campaign for Famagusta in the direction of the members of the Security Council, the European Union, and elsewhere,” Galanos said.
Asked whether the municipality is prepared for a return in accordance with UN resolutions, he said a lot of work has been done.
“There have been studies, there is a plan for infrastructure, the water and power supply – the only thing we haven’t been able to plan for is the reconstruction, because no one is allowed into the fenced-off town,” he said.
“But I believe good work is being done, and it has progressed to a great extent.”