NEW YORK – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has condemned the statements on Northern Cyprus by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who during his visit on July 20 to the northern part of the divided island, announced that part of the fenced-off Varosha buffer zone would be opened for civilian use. Erdogan said that “Life will begin again in Maraş”. Maraş is the Turkish name for Varosha.
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Friday to discuss the decision by Turkey and Turkish Cypriots leaders and issued a presidential statement stating that “the Security Council expresses its deep regret regarding these unilateral actions that run contrary to its previous resolutions and statements,” and called for “the immediate reversal of this course of action and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020.”
Varosha is located in the divided island’s buffer zone, in between the Turkish and Greek administrations in respectively the north and south. The Varosha area in the easternmost part of the buffer zone, was a major tourist destination before the Turkish invasion of 1974 under then Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. It has been closed and fenced-off since. Most of the properties in Varosha were owned by international investors and Greeks. Turkey has held Varosha as leverage in negotiations on the divided island. Turkey opened 2 kilometers of the beachside Democracy Street in Varosha as a secured pedestrian crossing on October 8, 2020.
After the Greek Cypriot government appealed to the UNSC, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated on July 21 that they are working on a strong response from the UNSC. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also made a statement through his spokesman expressing his deep concern over the rekindling of tensions. The strong response is Friday’s UNSC statement. The Security Council reaffirmed its earlier commitment “to an enduring, comprehensive and just settlement, in accordance with the wishes of the Cypriot people, and based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation, with political equality”.
The UNSC called for the implementation of the decisions of the council and put Varosha under UN administration. The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting the UN Security Council’s presidential statement calling it baseless allegations from various countries and statements which are inconsistent with the reality on the island.
— T.C. Dışişleri Bakanlığı (@TC_Disisleri) July 23, 2021
Cyprus has been divided since the 20 July 1974 Turkish invasion of the island. The invasion was preceded 5 days earlier by a coup backed by the Greek army junta aimed at reunification of the majority Greek island with Greece. After the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island, the Turks declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in1983, which is only recognized by Turkey. According to various sources, the Turkish army and intelligence services engineered attacks on Turkish Cypriot targets as a pretext for the Turkish army to intervene in 1974.
The Christian Syriacs are always troubled by such events. Syriacs living in Turkey during the 1960s and the 1974 invasion of Cyprus were subjected to intimidation and threats when the masses in Turkey were being incited into nationalism and violent action. The Cyprus conflict was framed as Islam versus Christianity with the prospect of the grabbing of Syriac property and lands.
In the Syriac town of Midyat, Tur Abdin, dogs decorated with images of the Cypriot president Makarios and crosses around their neck were paraded through the city. The predominantly Kurdish population took to the streets in pro-Turkish protests, armed with weapons, sticks, and axes and went through the city while chanting Islamist and anti-Christian and anti-Greek slogans. Turkish authorities and police only watched the armed protests in approval.
Between 1974 and 1985, most of the Syriac population of Midyat left their traditional hometown for the European diaspora. Some 100 Syriac families remain in Midyat today.
This article was originally published by @gazetesabro and translated by SyriacPress.