By George Gilson
It took exactly one week since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the re-opening of part of the fenced-off occupied city of Varosha for the EU to react with a comprehensive statement.
The statement issued by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, however, was confined to a verbal condemnation of Ankara’s action and admonitions regarding violations of international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
In substance, the EU has been a bystander in recent efforts to solve the Cyprus problem, a situation epitomised by the fact that in the UN-sponsored effort to find common ground in a five-way conference in Geneva in April, the EU was not invited, despite the fact that Cyprus is an EU-member state.
Instead, the participants, aside from the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot leader, were the three “guarantor powers” – Greece, Turkey, and the UK , which still maintains sovereign bases on the island- established in the outmoded 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, which is incompatible with the status of a contemporary sovereign state, and indeed one that is an EU member-state
EU summits over the last year have consistently postponed imposing sanctions against Turkey over its violations of international law in Cyprus’ EEZ, the Aegean, and the Eastern Mediterranean, ostensibly in an effort normalise Greek-Turkish relations.
After condemning Turkey’s “unilateral steps” in opening a small segment of Varosha, Borrell’s statement once again included a vague threat that if Turkey does not revoke its decision to open Varosha, the EU will “use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States, as well as to uphold regional stability”.
“Ministers will consider actions at their next meeting, in case of non-reversal of Turkey’s actions contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions 550/84 and 789/92, following the Statement of the Members of the European Council from 25 March 2021, which reaffirmed the determination of the EU, in case of renewed provocations and unilateral actions in breach of international law, to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its Member States, as well as to uphold regional stability,” the statement read.
The EU in calling on Ankara to reverse its decision on Varosha declared its support for the UN Security Council’s 23 July “condemnation and expression of deep regret about the unilateral actions in Varosha that run contrary to the Security Council’s previous resolutions and statements.”
Reiterating UN Security Council resolutions
It also invoked relevant UN Security Council resolutions – which Ankara continues to trample over – “which consider attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible, and which call for the transfer of that area to the administration of the United Nations. No actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with those Resolutions.”
In conclusion, Borrell’s statement clearly rejects Ankara’s demand for a two-state solution of the Cyprus problem, underlining that, “The EU remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded.”
Despite Ankara’s intractable insistence on a solution that creates a de jure partition of the island, the EU “reiterates that it is crucial that Turkey commits and contributes constructively to the resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive settlement, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions.”