The Turkish Cypriot government is speeding up efforts to turn Varosha, which has remained abandoned and uninhabited for 45 years, into a major tourist destination.
“Northern Cyprus will be transformed completely after the opening of Varosha,” Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said.
“An inventory study of Varosha is still ongoing. A number of people have a property in the town. The inventory work will be completed in six months,” Tatar told Hürriyet Daily News during a visit to the Demirören Media Center.
He noted that the Immovable Property Commission, which includes judges from European countries, in Northern Cyprus will look at property claims in Varosha once the town is reopened.
“Applications are assessed based on compensation, exchange and reinstatement criteria,” he said. “This step must be taken after 45 years.
“People will either return to their properties or sell them. We hear that some people residing in London are already selling some of those properties. If a Greek wants to run a hotel in Varosha, they are welcomed to do so provided that they prove that they own the property” Tatar said.
He said that the jewel of Varosha is its beach.
“It is one of a kind, not in the eastern Mediterranean but in the world. A hotel belonged to the U.K.’s royal family occupies nearly a one-fourth of the entire beach. It is very valuable. Believe me, some people will want to buy it,” Tatar said.
He noted that the tourism industry is one of the major industries supporting northern Cyprus’s economy, the other one being education services.
“Tourism activity generates $1 billion in revenues while education provides another $1 billion. Our fast developing housing sector sells properties to Russians and people from Dubai. We also have a developing IT industry,” Tatar added.
Varosha, a former resort suburb of Famagusta, was abandoned and declared a buffer zone between the communities of the island after the Turkish military intervened as a guarantor power following a Greece-inspired coup attempt in 1974.
Before the split of Cyprus 45 years ago, Varosha was a popular destination for Hollywood stars and wealthy tourists.
In June, the Turkish Cypriot government announced that they had decided to reopen Varosha.
Before the closure under a United Nations Security Council ruling, there were more than 100 hotels in Varosha, with an accommodation capacity of 10,000. The closure came at a time when hundreds of new construction projects were underway. The town also hosted a rich library that offered books in Turkish, Greek and English.