Famagusta… a ghost city
Famagusta, after its occupation by Turkish troops on 16 August 1974 and after having been looted, was sealed off and since no one is allowed to enter the town. The term “ghost town” was coined by Swedish journalist Jan-Olof Bengtsson, who visited the Swedish UN battalion in the Famagusta port and gazing at the sealed off town, wrote in Kvallsposten (24.9.1977): “ The asphalt on the roads has cracked in the warm sun and along the sidewalks bushes are growing. Today-September 1977- the breakfast tables are still set, the laundry still hanging and the lamps still burning. Varosha is a ghost town.”
The return of Famagusta to its lawful inhabitants has been the object of negotiations between the two sides. In 1978 the American-British-Canadian plan contained a clear provision for the resettlement of Famagusta inhabitants in their town under the auspices of the United Nations with the simultaneous resumption of negotiations for a comprehensive Cyprus settlement.
The High Level Agreement between President Spyros Kyprianou and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash achieved on 19 May 1979, under the auspices of the UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, gives priority to the return of Famagusta, without awaiting the outcome of the negotiations. More specifically it says: “Priority will be given to reaching agreement on the resettlement of Varosha under UN auspices simultaneously with the beginning of the consideration by interlocutors of the constitutional and territorial aspects of a comprehensive settlement. After agreement on Varosha has been reached it will be implemented without awaiting the outcome of the discussion on other aspects of the Cyprus problem.” The Turkish Cypriot side not only went back on the agreement, but also took action aiming at the colonization of Famagusta.
The Cyprus Government had recourse to the Security Council in 1984 denouncing Turkish provocative acts. The Security Council adopted on11 May 1984 resolution 550, which in paragraph 5 says: “Considers 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 United Nations.” The return of Famagusta to the United
Nations as a buffer zone for resettlement is also requested by Security Council resolution 789 of 1992. At the same time the return of Famagusta which is the largest refugee town in Europe is an obligation of Turkey under the Kyprianou-Denktash High Level Agreement of 1979 and is also an obligation under the recent resolution of the European Parliament, which was approved on 10 February 2010. Unfortunately, Turkey, instead of being held responsible for the violation of these resolutions, this very moment is a member of the UN Security Council and is presiding over the Council of Europe.
Today 36 years after the invasion, the city is empty, weeds, bushes and trees are growing in its streets, everywhere there are gaping houses and rats, snakes and birds of prey are inhabiting its abandoned houses, instead of its lawful residents.