(Bloomberg) — The European Union urged Turkey to halt the reopening of a ghost town in the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus, saying the move would worsen ties already strained by Ankara’s energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean.
EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said the Turkish plan for Varosha, near the port of Famagusta, would mark a “serious violation” of a United Nations cease-fire agreement for Cyprus. Varosha, abandoned and sealed off after Turkey’s takeover of the northern part of Cyprus in 1974, is due to be reopened to the public on Thursday.
“It’s going to increase tension and to make it more difficult to reach an agreement on an especially difficult situation for all of us on the eastern Mediterranean,” Borrell told the European Parliament on Wednesday in Brussels.
In February, the EU imposed asset freezes and travel bans on two employees of Turkish Petroleum Corp. in response to Turkey’s natural-gas hunt off Cyprus. With Cyprus pushing to include Turkish entities and add individuals to that blacklist, EU leaders threatened last week to weigh tougher penalties against Turkey by year-end should Ankara fail to take de-escalatory steps.
Cyprus has been divided between Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking regions since Turkey occupied the northern part in the wake of a 1974 coup by Greek-Cypriot supporters of union with Greece.
Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 after Greek-speaking voters rejected a unification plan in a referendum, causing the European bloc to import a border dispute that involves UN peacekeepers. Turkey still has troops in northern Cyprus, whose rulers aren’t recognized internationally.