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Media Watch 2003

19 May 2003
Source: Reuters
Author: Michele Kambas and Gokhan Tezgor
Comment: The following a report of Reuters on 19 May 2003
Cyprus Ghost Town Remains Suspended in Time


The following a report of Reuters on 19 May 2003 written by Michele Kambas and Gokhan Tezgor. Lobby takes issue with the preposterous suggestion that occupied Varosi should be 'returned' to a Turkish foundation, when the town was historically Greek populated. The idiotic suggestion that properties in Varosi were usurped by Greek Cypriots in the 19th century is akin to Greek Cypriots claiming all of Cyprus belongs to the Greek Cypriots as there was no Turkish prescence in Cyprus whatsoever prior to the Ottoman invasion, colonisation and mass conversions of 1570. What the article clearly demonstrates is that while the vast majority of western media, press and press agencies shyed away from any mention of Turkeys violation of UN resolutions and ethnic cleansing, it was always too keen to publicise any outlandish Turkish comments and claims.

"Cyprus Ghost Town Remains Suspended in Time

FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus (Reuters) - Greek Cypriots are making a silent pilgrimage to the fenced boundaries of a crumbling, overgrown town frozen in time at one of the most traumatic moments in the island's turbulent history.

Turkish northern Cyprus has opened its gates for the first time in three decades to Greek Cypriot visitors.

But a rusty fence bearing the faded red image of a soldier carrying a gun reminds them that the privilege does not extend to Varosha, a sprawling ghost town on the eastern coast and a powerful symbol of Cyprus's division.

Once the center of Cyprus's vibrant tourist economy and home of the Greek Cypriot elite, Varosha is empty and fenced off, out of bounds. Its 16,000 inhabitants deserted the place years ago. No one is admitted apart from U.N. peacekeepers and Turkish soldiers.

Overrun with rats, the only footprints on its two and a half miles of unblemished golden sands are those of sea gulls and rodents.

Along the beach stand hotel after empty hotel, beyond that padlocked banks and homes which have been looted many times.

Those who have managed to slip past the barrier come back with tales of half-finished meals decayed on kitchen tables 29 years after its residents fled, shreds of washing still hanging on clothes lines and weeds and trees sprouting through the floors of once-elegant villas.

Gutted sandwich shops display 1974 prices.

Parts of a neon sign of the Venus discotheque are just about discernible through a maze of weeds.

BARGAINING CHIP

Turkey, which seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 after a brief Greek-inspired coup, stopped short of populating Varosha. The town was kept as a bargaining chip in peace negotiations. Turkey also feared angering multinationals with big investments in the town.

Every few years hopes are raised among Greek Cypriots that it will be returned, but each time they are disappointed.

Greek Cypriot access to Varosha was one of several confidence-building measures proposed by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash last month following the collapse of U.N. sponsored peace negotiations in March.

But any future opening of Varosha may not be easy because of opposing claims to ownership, a difficulty which applies across the island and one which mediators see as vital to any future peace deal.

Evkaf, a Turkish Cypriot foundation which is one of the largest landowners in Cyprus, says huge tracts of property in Varosha belong to it.

"These properties were unlawfully usurped in the 19th century by Greek Cypriots, including the Church, the school authority, hotel companies, municipalities, government offices, and museums," said foundation director Taner Dervis.

The foundation says it has some 6,600 title deeds from the fenced-in area in its possession.

"I have applied to the (Turkish Cypriot) government for the return of Varosha to the Evkaf," Dervis told Reuters.

RECONSTRUCTION

Irrespective of property claims, both sides would be in agreement that the reconstruction of Varosha would be a huge task. The electricity grid and water supply would have to be rebuilt, buildings repaired or demolished.

There have been independent assessments of a repair bill in excess of $1.7 billion.

A clear assessment can be made only when experts are allowed access to it. "Now we can only see it from afar," Greek Cypriot Andreas Charalambous at the Ministry of Finance in the south told Reuters.
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