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

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

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.


Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting

Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting
Updated 5 min 35 sec ago

Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting

Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting
THE HAGUE: Protests against a curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police and looting in cities across the country Sunday, authorities and reports said.
Police used water cannon and dogs in Amsterdam, public television NOS reported, after hundreds gathered to protest the curfew which is set to last until February 10 and is the country’s first since World War II.
In the southern city of Eindhoven, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred, regional television Omroep Brabant reported. At least 30 people were arrested there, according to police.
A number of vehicles were burned and businesses at Eindhoven’s central train station were also looted, media reports said.
Dutch rail company NS called on travelers to avoid the Eindhoven station, where it said train circulation was interrupted due to the intervention of emergency services nearby.
Eindhoven mayor John Jorritsma told reporters that if the country continued “down this path, then I think we are heading for civil war.”
Incidents were also reported in The Hague, Breda, Arnhem, Tilburg, Enschede, Appeldoorn, Venlo and Ruremond.
A Covid-19 testing center was set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk in the north of the country, local authorities said.
“The fire in a screening center in Urk goes beyond all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday.
Violators of the 9 p.m. to 4:30 am curfew, which Prime Minister Mark Rutte says is needed to bring case numbers down, face a 95-euro ($115) fine.
Exemptions are possible, in particular for people returning from funerals or those having to work, but on condition that they present a certificate.
Rutte also announced on Wednesday a ban on flights from Britain, South Africa and South America, and a cut in the number of guests allowed in people’s homes to one, from the previous limit of two.
New variants of the virus have led to deep concern in Europe, particularly a more infectious strain that first emerged in Britain.
The Netherlands was already under its toughest measures since the start of the pandemic, with bars and restaurants having closed in October, and schools and non-essential shops shut since December.
Dutch lawmakers on Thursday approved Rutte’s curfew plan, though on condition that it begin half an hour later than the original 8:30 p.m. start time.
The move had faced criticism led by far-right politician Geert Wilders, who called it “careless” and “disproportionate.”
“I stand here for freedom. I lost it myself,” said Wilders, who has for years been under round-the-clock security after receiving death threats.
“I do not accept that we unnecessarily... introduce curfews while there are alternatives.”
Rutte and his cabinet resigned on January 22 over a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to govern until elections in mid-March.