Tomorrow afternoon (9 October), Council members will hold consultations on Cyprus. A senior representative from the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs is expected to brief Council members. The Republic of Cyprus requested the meeting, citing recent threats by the authorities of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots to change the status of the city of Varosha contrary to relevant Security Council resolutions on Cyprus.
Varosha is located on the Turkish Cypriot side of the buffer zone, a demilitarised zone separating Turkish Cypriots in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. The residents, who were predominantly Greek Cypriots, fled the city in 1974 after Turkish military forces intervened on the island, following a coup d’état in Cyprus by Greek officers that were members of the Cyprus National Guard. Since then, Varosha has remained unpopulated and closed to the public. The city is under the control of the Turkish military. The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) supervises the ceasefire and maintains the buffer zone. The mission does not have control over Varosha, however.
The Turkish Cypriot authorities have not, to date, taken any overt steps towards changing the status of Varosha. Turkish Cypriot authorities have been quoted in local media as saying that they intend to demilitarise Varosha and revitalise the area as a tourist destination, and that any plans would take into consideration property claims by the Greek Cypriots. Also according to media reports, Turkish Cypriot authorities visited Varosha in June and conducted an inventory of the city’s infrastructure.
The status of Varosha, which has remained disputed since 1974, is an important part of the greater unification talks. The Council has pronounced itself on Varosha on several occasions. In resolution 550 of 11 May 1984, the Council stated that it considered inadmissible any efforts to populate Varosha with people other than its inhabitants and called for a transfer of the area to the administration of the UN. The most recent UNFICYP mandate renewal (S/RES/2483 of 25 July 2019) recalled “the status of Varosha as set out in relevant resolutions”.
It is likely that Council members will reiterate their support for the previous Council decisions on the status of Varosha and call on both sides to exercise restraint. Some members might use this opportunity to address other issues such as lack of progress on the political front and continued tensions over hydrocarbon resources off the coast of Cyprus. By 15 November, the Secretary-General is expected to submit to the Council the report on his good offices on Cyprus. Council members will probably have a broader discussion on Cyprus at that time.