Members of the European Parliament on Thursday voted in favor of a resolution calling on the European Council to impose urgent sanctions against Turkey.
The measure was promoted by what the European Parliament called Turkey’s o”illegal activities in the Varosha suburb of the city of Famagusta” in Cyprus.
In 1974, the Turkish army fenced off Varosha, a beach resort immediately after the invasion of Cyprus. The Greek Cypriots who fled from Varosha were not allowed to return and with public entry prohibited, Varosha has effectively become a ghost town.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angered Cyprus when he visited Verosha on November 15. Ankara backed the partial re-opening of Varosha in a move criticised by the United States, Greece and Greek Cypriots.
Erdogan’s visit this month capped months of tensions between Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus, as well as Europe, when Ankara began exploring for natural resources off the coast of Cyprus. This prompted a military buildup on the Eastern Mediterranean, alarming other states such as Egypt.
Members of the European Parliament on Thursday warned that Turkey’s decision to partially open the town of Varosha, “weakens prospects of a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, exacerbating divisions and entrenching the permanent partition of the island”.
They also called on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the UN temporary administration in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a “policy of illegal settlement.”
In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry condemned the resolution, saying: “We completely reject the non-binding resolution adopted by the MEPs on our country and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”
“This decision, which is undoubtedly dictated by the Greek Cypriot administration, once again demonstrates how disconnected from reality and prejudiced the EP is on the Cyprus issue,” he continued.
Earlier this month, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to northern Cyprus during which he called for a “two-state” solution in the island.
“These [actions] will cause greater distrust and tension in the region and should be urgently reversed,” he said.
The island of Cyprus was divided in 1974. The island’s Greek Cypriots live predominantly in the south, and Turkish Cypriots in the north since the 1974 war. Several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.