GAZIMAGUSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Turkish Cypriots have voiced strong support for the partial opening of the former “ghost town” of Maras in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Anadolu Agency interviewed some Turkish Cypriots about the TRNC government’s recent decision to partially open the coastal Maras region, which was a restricted area for decades.

Naime Irisoglu, a resident of Gazimagusa, which includes the Maras area, said opening Maras – Varosha in Greek – could create jobs for many people.

The opening would be beneficial for Greek Cypriots as well, she said.

Retired police officer Erdal Ozgoray also voiced support for the opening, calling it long overdue.

He agreed that the opening would attract people to the Gazimagusa region and help create jobs.

The Greek Cypriots should claim the properties they own in Maras, he added.

Again touting the potential economic benefits of the opening, Ertugrul Cakirgoz said Greek Cypriots can live in Maras under the Turkish Cypriot government.

Greek Cypriots may well flock to Maras, he said.

Maras was partially reopened to the public last October after being a “ghost town” since 1974.

It was abandoned after a 1984 UN Security Council resolution saying that only its original inhabitants can resettle the town.

Entry into the town located in Northern Cyprus was forbidden except for Turkish army personnel stationed in the TRNC.

The move comes on the heels of last week’s ceremonies marking the 47th anniversary of Turkey’s Peace Operation.

Decades-long dispute

Cyprus has been mired in a decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by the UN to achieve a comprehensive settlement.

Ethnic attacks starting in the early 1960s forced Turkish Cypriots to withdraw into enclaves for their safety.

In 1974, a Greek Cypriot coup aimed at Greece’s annexation led to Turkey’s military intervention as a guarantor power to protect Turkish Cypriots from persecution and violence. As a result, the TRNC was founded in 1983.

It has seen an on-and-off peace process in recent years, including a failed 2017 initiative in Switzerland under the auspices of guarantor countries Turkey, Greece, and the UK.

The Greek Cypriot administration entered the EU in 2004, the same year Greek Cypriots thwarted the UN’s Annan plan to end the longstanding dispute.

* Writing by Ahmet Gencturk

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