A “ghost town” and a beach anchored in the seventies, a new scene of conflict between Turkey and Greece

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Turkish President Rayip Erdogan opened a “jewel” on the Cypriot coast after 46 years and with it a new lawsuit with the Greeks.

When the hotels and terraces of Varosha they were abandoned on the run, the song of the summer was Gigi l’amoroso and Demis Roussos could buckle up. That summer of 1974, the pearl of the Cypriot coast fell silent after two blows from which it would never recover, due to the coup in Greece and the Turkish invasion.

The perimeter of that eastern Lloret de Mar it was wired and even mined, turning it into a ghost town, symbol of the division of Cyprus. Ten thousand hotel beds – more than the forty thousand Greek Cypriots who fled – were left for the cobwebs, in avenues threatening ruin. In forty-six years, no tourist had ever set foot on its kilometer-long beach.

Until Saturday, when the Turkish military gave way to two hundred Turkish Cypriots from neighboring Famagusta. Equipped with a mask and even crescent flags, they enjoyed the leave – henceforth, until five – to stroll across the sand to the old Golden Sands hotel, contemplating in passing the collapse of the seventies and of a country that is and is not his.

It is, you have guessed it, a new provocation by the President of Turkey, Erdogan. He received on Tuesday, in Ankara, the Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Ersin Tatar. Together they announced that the Varosha precinct – which they call Marash – would explode this Thursday, at the same time that the Turkish Foreign Minister had an appointment with his Greek counterpart in Bratislava.

The calendar is not accidental. Northern Cyprus will elect president this Sunday and Tatar has been anointed as the preferred candidate for the tutelary power. Something that has angered the current Turkish Cypriot president, Mustafa Akinci, who considers that his rival has robbed him of a presidential power. The propaganda coup is also condemned by the Deputy Prime Minister and also a candidate, who has already announced the breakup of its current coalition with Tatar.

In any case, Erdogan’s bet is double-edged, since if Tatar loses – in the first or second round – his tutelage is also snubbed.

Varosha is actually the maritime district of Famagusta, a medieval jewel full of Catholic churches and a French-style Gothic cathedral, which has been carpeted as a mosque for centuries. His castle is known as Othello’s, because Shakespeare set his work in Cyprus and jealousy, it seems, is still rampant. If Varosha is a beach without bathers, Famagusta is a port without boats, due to the international blockade of the Turkish entity.

It should be noted that Akinci is a supporter of the federal union of the two entities of the island. Born in Limassol, he represents many of the native Turkish Cypriots, who do not identify with Erdogan’s Islamism and his growing nationalism.

Erdogan’s favorite candidate, on the other hand, is betting on a loose confederation, if not two independent states, as Ankara dreams of. The discovery of natural gas in the island’s waters over the last decade has been used by Turkey to present itself as the only guarantee that the Turkish Cypriots will get their share. Since then, reunification seems more remote.

The last great opportunity for this, the Annan plan, immediately before the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU in 2004, was the penultimate great opportunity. Although it was not spoiled by Erdogan, nor by the Turkish Cypriots, three out of four voted against.

If Varosha is still off limits to its owners on the other side of the Green Line, says the Turkish press, that is why. But even just opening the kilometer-long beach, Ankara disobeys UN resolutions. Although Erdogan already promises to go further and reopen the urban part. It is no accident that the best houses in Nicosia are law firms.

Although all the taxis are stunning Mercedes, international tourism cannot land in direct flight. Turks mostly flock to casinos, while “international universities” in the middle of nowhere host Africans. Heraclitus of Ephesus, who today would be born in Turkey, has already said it: you must never bathe on the same beach.

Jordi Joan Baños. The vanguard

PB​

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