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North Cyprus reopens abandoned beach resort, Varosha

(CNN) – Northern Cyprus has reopened part of the Varosha beach resort that has been abandoned since Turkey invaded the Mediterranean island decades ago.The Turkish Defense Ministry declared the area public on Thursday and posted pictures of visitors to the site on Twitter.

The move has sparked international criticism.

Cyprus was split in two in 1974 when a Greek government-sponsored coup was faced with a Turkish military invasion that divided the country between the Turkish Cypriot north and the Greek Cypriot south.

The resort was closed to the public for years until TRNC authorities said they wanted to reopen the area.

Nedim Enginsoy / AP

The once popular resort of Varosha – an abandoned district of the ancient city of Famagusta – was for years a no man’s land between north and south. The public is still prohibited from entering the area that once attracted tourists from around the world.

Authorities pointed out plans in August to open the city, which once had more than 12,000 hotel rooms and a population of 25,000.

Ersin Tatar, Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), said on Tuesday: “We are starting the process to get people to use our country’s public areas, Sahil and Demokrasi streets and the beach. Maras, the what a ghost town was is now coming back to life. “

Regarding the district with its Turkish name, Tatar said: “If God willing, we and our people will start using Maras Beach on Thursday morning.”

A woman with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot runaway flags takes photos at a police-controlled gate to enter Varosha Beach, an uninhabited, fenced-in suburb, on Thursday.

A woman with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot runaway flags takes photos at a police-controlled gate to enter Varosha Beach, an uninhabited, fenced-in suburb, on Thursday.

Nedim Enginsoy / AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed Tatar’s plan and said on Tuesday: “It is the Turkish Cypriot authorities who have the right to speak here. Given this truth, we support your decision to open the beautiful beach of Maras for use fully open your people, according to your roadmap. “

But the move sparked outrage from the international authorities.

On Tuesday the government of the Republic of Cyprus announced that it would protest against the “provocative and illegal action” against the UN Security Council and the European Union “as an act in violation of international law and the resolutions of the UN Security Council.”

The Cypriot government said in a statement: “[We] Strongly condemn the decision of occupying Turkey and one of his henchmen in the occupied territories, Ersin Tatar, to extend the license to enter the Varosha coastal front during a pre-election festival in Ankara. on the eve of the electoral process for the emergence of a new Turkish Cypriot leader. “

People with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot runaway flags take photos of themselves on the beach with abandoned buildings in the background after police opened Varosha Beach on Thursday.

People with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot runaway flags take photos of themselves on the beach with abandoned buildings in the background after police opened Varosha Beach on Thursday.

Nedim Enginsoy / AP

On Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Turkey’s decision to extend entry to Varosha was “a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions”.

“Greece will support all relevant efforts of the Republic of Cyprus,” said Mitsotakis in his speech at an award ceremony in Thessaloniki.

Meanwhile, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, said the EU was “deeply concerned” with the announcements.

He warned that developments “could create greater tension and complicate efforts to resume the Cypriot settlement talks”.

A spokesman for António Guterres said the UN Secretary-General was concerned about the reopening announcement.

“He reminded that the position of the United Nations on Varosha remains unchanged and is based on the relevant resolutions of the Security Council,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman for the secretary general, on Wednesday.

“The Secretary General stressed the need to avoid unilateral action that could create tension on the island and undermine the return to dialogue or the future success of talks. He urged all parties to enter into a dialogue to resolve their differences and reiterates its willingness to bring the parties together, “said Dujarric.

CNN’s Gul Tuysuz and Martin Goillandeau contributed to this report.

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