GAZIMAGUSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus
Some 3.5% of the former “ghost town” of Maras in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has been reopened to the public, the country's prime minister said Monday.
The move in Maras (Varosha in Greek), following last year’s partial reopening after 47 years of the town being a restricted zone, was the second stage of a decision by the TRNC government, Ersan Saner told reporters.
Noting that the town covers an area of 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) in total, Saner said the newly opened 3.5% section includes nearly 500 parcels.
For the reopening steps, he pledged: "We will act in line with the rules of the European Court of Human Rights."
"In this context, 337 owners applied to the Property Arrangement Commission for the total of Maras, through exchange, compensation or return conditions means,” he explained.
“In the (3.5%) region that we took out of the military forbidden zone, there are applications by 36 people to get their properties from the Property Arrangement Commission by means of exchange, compensation, or return. These applications will be evaluated by the Property Arrangement Commission and decisions will be made."
Maras was partially reopened to the public last October after being a "ghost town" since 1974.
It was abandoned after a 1984 UN Security Council resolution saying that the town can only be resettled by its original inhabitants.
Entry into the town located in Northern Cyprus was forbidden except for Turkish army personnel stationed in the TRNC.
The move comes on the heels of last week’s ceremonies marking the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s Peace Operation.
Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.
Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.
In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. The TRNC was founded in 1983.
It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the UK.
The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the longstanding dispute.