President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus to celebrate the breakaway enclave's anniversary as he pushes for a permanent two-state solution on the island, prompting a rebuke from the European Union.
Erdogan joined Ersin Tatar, the newly elected Turkish-Cypriot president, for what was described as a "picnic" at Varosha. The once-thriving resort, sealed off after the Turkish takeover, has assumed symbolic importance in the president's quest.
With Ankara's encouragement, Turkish-Cypriot authorities last month opened a strip of beach and the main street in Varosha to the public, ignoring warnings that the move could hinder a United Nations proposal to resume reunification talks.
Turkey has dismissed talk of a federation on the island as a "waste of time." Erdogan's presence could fuel tension at a time when the island has also been pitched into a spat over rights to develop energy reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.
Relations between Turkey and Greece deteriorated this summer over the dash for energy assets as both countries asserted exclusive economic rights and Turkey explored for natural gas off Cyprus.
"Varosha is waiting for its real owners," Erdogan said after touring the ghost town. He urged owners of properties in Varosha, including Greek Cypriots, to apply to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot government to reclaim them.
EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said "we deplore today's actions" to reopen the resort. "They will cause greater distrust and tension in the region and should be urgently reversed," he said in a statement.
Earlier in Nicosia, Erdogan reiterated his call for a two-state solution. "A two-state solution must be discussed and negotiated on the basis of sovereign equality," he said.
"Turkey's search for hydrocarbon resources will continue until a fair settlement is reached," he added.
Erdogan's visit is against UN resolutions and as such the issue will be raised at the European Union summit in December, the Greek Foreign Ministry said. Such actions provoke the feeling of the whole Cypriot people, the country's presidential office said in a statement.
After his first meeting with Tatar on Nov. 3, Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said there was a gap between the two sides' positions.
The UN sought to play down those differences, saying in a statement that the two leaders "expressed their determination" to support discussions on the island's future involving Cyprus's two communities, along with guarantor powers Greece, Turkey and the U.K.
The Turkish-Cypriot state, formally founded in 1983 and still only recognized by Ankara, now wants to redevelop Varosha to win implicit international acceptance of its control.
The Greek-Cypriot administration says it will consider any attempt to unilaterally change Varosha's status as a breach of Ankara's international commitments and prevent unity talks.
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