U..S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced deep concern about Northern Cyprus’ reopening part of a beachfront resort abandoned since Turkey invaded the island in 1974, calling it provocative and seeking its reversal, the State Department said on Friday.
Pompeo made the comments in a call with Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides, the Department said, referring to Turkish Cypriot authorities partial reopening of the beach town of Varosha, a former resort area fenced off and abandoned in no-man’s land since the 1974 invasion divided the island.
“The Secretary expressed deep concern and noted such a move was provocative and inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789 and not conducive to a return to settlement talks,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
“The Secretary urges a reversal of the re-opening,” she added. “The United States continues to support a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which would benefit all Cypriots and the entire region.”
An affluent neighborhood of high rise hotels, residences and shops, Varosha’s 39,000 Greek Cypriot residents fled in the second wave of an invasion mounted by Turkey in 1974 triggered by a brief Greek inspired coup. It was sealed off by the Turkish military, and effectively left to rot.
In related news Greece and Cyprus pushed for a tougher European Union response to Turkey’s natural gas exploration in contested Mediterranean waters at an EU summit on Friday but were essentially told to hold off until another leaders’ meeting in December.
Two weeks after their last summit where leaders discussed economic sanctions, the EU has so far failed to persuade Ankara to stop exploring in waters disputed by Greece and Cyprus.
Turkey said on Wednesday it was restarting operations of a survey ship that it withdrew last month.
“We plan a summit in December. And we have planned, indeed, to tackle again and to assess the situation in the eastern Mediterranean and in Turkey,” European Council President Charles Michel told a news conference after the summit.
France and Germany said earlier this week that Turkey had only “weeks” to revise its stance and stop what they also said were provocations, but declined to give a strong ultimatum as Athens and Nicosia would like.
French President Emmanuel Macron said after the summit that leaders had reaffirmed support for Greece and Turkey, but were also open to talks with Ankara.
EU leaders had agreed on Oct. 2 to give Turkey until early December before considering economic sanctions and Germany, which has so far led diplomatic talks with Ankara, wants to give dialogue a chance because of close EU-Turkey trade ties.
Cyprus is frustrated that, in addition to the Turkish exploration ship off a Greek island, Turkey has sent another vessel to Cyprus’s economic zone to conduct seismic surveys.
EU member Cyprus is also furious that Turkish Cypriot authorities have partially reopened the beach town of Varosha, a former resort area fenced off and abandoned in no-man’s land since a 1974 Turkish invasion that split the island.
“Turkey remains consistent in its provocative and aggressive behaviour,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday in Brussels.