Cyprus Foreign Minister, Constantinos Kombos, has said that Nicosia’s is to act preventively by introducing disincentives for selling of Greek Cypriot properties situated in the fenced off city of Famagusta (Varosha).
In an interview with CNA and asked about the way the government is dealing with this issue, after information was published in the Turkish Cypriot press about the selling of Greek Cypriot properties situated in Varosha, Kombos noted that they are very much worried by the latest developments, adding that “these are issues that need to be seriously evaluated, and for our part we identify both the legal capabilities of the state and the political capabilities of the state” to address the situation. Kombos also called on everyone to listen carefully and take into consideration statements which the Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, made on this issue.
As regards the efforts aiming at the resumption of the negotiations on the Cyprus problem, Kombos noted that Nicosia wants dialogue on the substance, which has the prospect of leading somewhere and not parallel monologues. We do not consider that a process during which the two sides will express their positions based on different starting points will be particularly constructive, he added.
Information about the selling of Greek Cypriot properties in Varosha
Asked about the way the government is dealing with the issue that came up after information published in the Turkish Cypriot press about the selling of Greek Cypriot properties situated in Varosha, Kombos noted that “the latest developments are extremely worrying and cause particular concern to us. Of course, we must always remember that these issues come up as long as the Cyprus problem remains unsolved and of course as long as there is no negotiating process underway. This is why the President of the Republic has undertaken the initiative for a more active involvement of the EU which aims at breaking the deadlock, and creating hope for all the refugees that a new effort for a settlement is in the pipeline,” he added.
Kombos noted that “the recent information is extremely worrying and we have been gathering information since the beginning, we’ve been evaluating them, meetings are taking place at various levels, with a view to ascertain what is happening and which are the response capabilities.”
He went on to say that in such cases reacting in an instinctive way is not the best solution or a wise choice. According to Kombos there is an inconsistency as regards the information that was first published in the Turkish Cypriot press and what has been happening during the last hours.
Therefore we had to responsibly activate all the state services, and this is what we did, with a view to find out if this is information is true, and clarify issues related to the documents, where they were submitted, if they will be submitted, if this is part of a coordinated effort or if these are individual cases, how other stakeholders are involved in this, or matters that have to do with the compensation given by the ‘committee’ that operates in the occupied areas, he added.
Moreover, Kombos noted that another important parameter is that of the policy related to the refugees “which was not always proportional to their needs. And this is something examined by our side, with a view to address the issue in a more comprehensive way,” he added.
Asked if the measures that can be taken are political, diplomatic and legal, Kombos said that “we are pondering all possible solutions that we may have at our disposal. Our aim is not to target anyone. Our aim is to take preventive measures, providing disincentives for such sales or moves towards this direction,” he noted.
He added that “everyone has rights as regards their property,” noting however that the public interest must be taken into consideration when choices are made making. He added that the state has options which is now trying to make more specific, as regards the cases that it has before it but also any others that may come up in the future.
Asked if the research which the competent authorities have made about these cases have borne fruit, the Foreign Minister said that “the picture is now complete about these cases and it is worrying. It could be much more worrying if these were part of a coordinated effort. But they also have their significance and this is why we are concentrating on them.”
Invited to say if they have indication if these cases are part of a coordinated effort, the Foreign Minister said that it is early to say so and that it is not wise to discuss this in public.
Asked about statements made on this issue by Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who encouraged Turkish Cypriots and Turks to buy Greek Cypriot properties, noting that it is an extremely important step for these properties to pass into Turkish hands and that this will be politically to their benefit, Kombos noted that that it would be good for everyone to listen to this statement carefully and take it into consideration.
“Because it highlights and reveals the intentions or the results of some actions”, he noted, adding that for any actions taken individually this statement should be taken into consideration.
Asked about Nicosia’s actions aiming at the resumption of the talks on the Cyprus problem, the Foreign Minister said that “we are making use of the time until the elections in Turkey. There is no dead time. This period is useful for us for the preparation of the ground so that the initiative which the President has undertaken and has developed (for a more active involvement of the EU) will find a fertile ground or create conditions with a view to have a fertile ground for its implementation to move forward,” he noted.
“The visit to Paris (where President Christodoulides met with President Macron) aimed at this. It took place in an excellent climate and we found significant understanding by the French side about this initiative. The President himself said in public statements that names that were submitted by the French side were discussed. This means that there is a general acceptance of the usefulness and the significance of the initiative expressed by our side,” Kombos noted.
He also noted that “this is the only initiative right now on the table and we insist that it must move forward always aligned with the role which the UN diachronically has and which no one will substitute.”
According to Kombos, the EU will have a complementary role, contributing to the activation of the process, from the point it stopped in Crans – Montana, re-activating the momentum that existed then and the acquis of the negotiations that led until the point they reached in Crans-Montana.
Asked if a decision should be taken officially by the EU for this initiative to be implemented, Kombos said that this is part of the process, adding that it is most likely that this is the way that is going to be done, with a mandate for the appointment of a certain personality.
Invited to say if this decision should be taken by the European Council, the Foreign Minister sad that this is one choice, adding that procedural issues are resolved in many and various ways by the EU.
Moreover, he noted that for the process to move forwards at the EU this must be supported both by the member states and by the institutions. “This shows how difficult this venture is. On the other hand, this is the aim of the preparation made now, with a view to achieve the endorsement of this proposal by all the stakeholders involved,” he added.
The Foreign Minister also said that this initiative is being discussed since the new Cyprus government undertook its duties on March 1st, during all meetings not only with the EU, adding that third countries have also been showing keen interest in it asking for more information and to be updated on the content of this initiative.
Asked which are these countries, Kombos said that they are countries which play a significant role in the Cyprus problem or have an institutional role in organizations as the UN- the Security Council, the five permanent members.
Invited to say if they have any indication about how the UN would move forward on the Cyprus problem, Kombos said that Nicosia’s approach was explained by President Christodoulides to the UN Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo during her visit to Cyprus and the UN response was positive as long as there is no chance for the UN being marginalized as regards this effort.
Asked if a UN special envoy should be appointed prior to an appointment made by the EU or the former is independent from the latter, the Foreign Minister said that even though these are two independent developments, no one can consider that the one could proceed for a long time without the other one happening.
To a remark that the Turkish rhetoric for a two-state solution in Cyprus and the demands by Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot puppet regime related to the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone remain the same, Kombos said that the public rhetoric does not change and we see this.
From time to time the tone of this rhetoric gets higher, he added, recalling that Turkey is now in an election campaign that affects public statements.
He also noted that they do not turn a blind eye on the fact that the Turkish policy will not change from one day to the other. “What we are hoping and we have been trying to do with the EU contribution is (for the Turkish side) to realize that this policy constitutes an impasse,” he added.
Therefore, he added, “we expect that the process of getting back to the negotiations will move forward, that there may be room for a window of opportunity in the framework of the climate created by Turkey with other countries as Greece, or the effort of rapprochement with the EU.”
Kombos stressed that “this is not just upon us. The return to the negotiations is a decision which the other side needs to take. We are doing our utmost to create the conditions so that this decision can be on the table as a choice for the Turkish side, and of course this includes the Turkish Cypriot leadership, the statements of which continue to be the same during the last period.”
Asked if there could be a return to the negotiating table if the Turkish sides insists on its positions, Kombos said that the aim is not to resume the negotiations for the sake of resuming them, but the resumption of negotiations with substance that will create prospects for a settlement of the Cyprus problem. And to this end the starting point is where we stopped in Crans Montana, he added.
Moreover, he said that “we do not consider that a process during which the two sides will express their positions based on different starting points will be particularly constructive,” adding that what happened in Geneva in April 2021 created conditions for parallel monologues. “We want dialogue on the substance, that will have prospects to bear fruit,” he noted.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.
Varosha, the fenced off section of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta, is often described as a ‘ghost town’.
UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN. UN Security Council resolution 789 (1992) also urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550 (1984), the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.
The Turkish Cypriot leadership announced in July 2021 a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha. A few months earlier, on October 8, 2020, the Turkish side opened part of the fenced area of Varosha, following an announcement made in Ankara on October 6. The UN Security Council called for the reversal of this course of action, while the UN Secretary General, in his latest report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, reiterated his concern over developments in the fenced-off area, noting that the position of the UN on Varosha remains unchanged. The EU also expressed grave concern.