Turkish Cypriot FM quits in protest at move to reopen ghost resort

Deserted buildings in Varosha, a fenced off area of Famagusta, in the Turkish-occupied north of the divided eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, October 6, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 07 October 2020

Turkish Cypriot FM quits in protest at move to reopen ghost resort

  • Move condemned by PM Ersin Tatar’s opponents as a ploy ahead of Sunday’s presidential election and an act of interference by Ankara in Turkish Cypriot affairs
  • In its heyday in the early 1970s, the resort was a favored haunt of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton

NICOSIA: Turkish Cypriot foreign minister Kudret Ozersay has announced his resignation in protest at the nationalist prime minister’s decision to reopen the Greek Cypriot resort of Varosha, a sealed-off ghost town since 1974, just days before a presidential election.
Ozersay’s People’s Party, the third largest in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state’s parliament, also pulled out of the governing coalition, depriving it of its majority, he announced late on Tuesday.
Speaking after Tuesday talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Cypriot prime minister Ersin Tatar announced that the coastal section of Varosha would reopen on Thursday.
The move was condemned by Tatar’s opponents as a ploy to shore up his nationalist base ahead of Sunday’s election and an act of interference by Ankara in Turkish Cypriot affairs.
“It is unacceptable that Tatar ignored the will of his coalition partner and the Turkish Cypriot people,” Ozersay said.
Both Tatar and Ozersay are challenging dovish incumbent Mustafa Akinci in Sunday’s election, which was delayed from April by the coronavirus pandemic.
Akinci too strongly criticized the announcement from Ankara, calling it a “shame for our democracy” and “interference in our elections.”
The president, who is the only Turkish Cypriot official to have international status as leader of the island’s minority community, has long had difficult relations with Ankara, the only government which recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state.
In February, Turkey accused him of being “dishonest” after he described the prospect of annexation by Ankara as horrible.
Akinci represents the Turkish Cypriot side in currently dormant UN-backed talks on ending the island’s decades-long division.
The return of Varosha to its Greek Cypriot former inhabitants has been a central part of every UN-backed proposal to reunify the island.
In its heyday in the early 1970s, the resort was a favored haunt of celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
But the Turkish invasion of 1974, launched in response to a Greek Cypriot coup seeking to annex the whole island to Greece, emptied the resort district and the wider city of Famagusta of its Greek Cypriot residents and property owners.
It has been sealed off by the Turkish army ever since.
The Turkish Cypriots have long considered unilaterally reopening Varosha as a means of jump-starting talks.
But they have previously always held back in the face of opposition from the island’s internationally recognized government and the international community.
Cyprus government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios described the move as “a pre-election stunt created in Ankara, on the eve of an election for a new Turkish Cypriot leader.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was “very concerned” about Tuesday’s announcement and stressed the “urgency of restoring confidence and not of creating greater divisions.”
Akinci is the favorite going into Sunday’s election, which is likely to be decided in a second-round runoff between himself and Tatar.
Former prime minister Tufan Erhurman of the center-left Turkish Republican Party, the second largest in parliament, is also standing, alongside minor party candidates and independents.

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

Updated 22 October 2020

Indonesian president ‘honored’ to have UAE street named after him

  • Abu Dhabi’s Al-Ma’arid Street renamed President Joko Widodo Street

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday said it was “an honor” for him and his country that a street in the UAE capital had been named after him.

Al-Ma’arid Street, one of Abu Dhabi’s key roads, was on Monday renamed President Joko Widodo Street during a ceremony that coincided with the first anniversary of the Indonesian leader’s inauguration for a second term in office.

Writing on social media, Widodo said: “It is a recognition and an honor, not only for me, but for Indonesia.” He also expressed hope that the two countries’ relations would be “stronger, mutually strengthening, and beneficial for the people of the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.”

Indonesia’s ambassador to the UAE, Husin Bagis, told Arab News: “The initiative to rename the street after President Joko Widodo came from His Highness (Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan), who also presided over the street renaming ceremony on the spot.”

The envoy said that the street was near to the future location of the Indonesian Embassy compound, which was currently under construction.

According to UAE news agency WAM, the crown prince has also directed officials to build a mosque named after Widodo, in Abu Dhabi’s Diplomatic Area, in recognition of the Indonesian president’s close friendship with the UAE and his efforts to strengthen the relationship.

Indonesia-UAE relations have grown closer since Widodo’s visit to Abu Dhabi in January, during which he secured investment projects worth $22.9 billion in what has officially been described as the biggest trade deal in the country’s history. The visit was to reciprocate the crown prince’s trip to Indonesia in July 2019.

Recent cooperation agreements between the two countries have included plans for the construction of a mosque on a plot of land in Widodo’s hometown of Solo in Central Java.

The mosque will be a replica of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and serve as an Islamic center offering training for clerics. A groundbreaking ceremony is slated to take place in December.

Widodo is the latest Indonesian leader to be celebrated through an honorific street name in a foreign country. In Rabat, Morocco’s capital, Avenue Sukarno was named after Indonesia’s first president, while Mohammed Hatta Street in Haarlem, the Netherlands, recognizes the Southeast Asian country’s first vice president. Sukarno and Hatta are considered the fathers of Indonesia’s independence.

The name of the country’s third president, B. J. Habibie, appears on a bridge in Dili, the capital of East Timor, in honor of his decision to hold a referendum there which allowed East Timor to secede from Indonesia.