Greece called on Turkey to step back from reopening an abandoned beach resort in Northern Cyprus, warning that Athens and Nicosia stand ready to bring the issue before a European Union leaders meeting next week, its government spokesman said on Thursday.
Northern Cyprus reopened part of the beach of a resort that had been abandoned since the 1974 conflict on the divided island, Turkish state media said on Thursday. The step was supported by Ankara, which recognizes a breakaway administration in the north, but condemned by Greek Cypriots and caused concern internationally.
Before a Greek-inspired military coup that ended up splitting the island, 39,000 Greek Cypriots lived in Varosha. They fled advancing Turkish forces in 1974 and Varosha has been off limits along ceasefire lines to all but the Turkish military since then. It has stood as a bargaining chip in the decades-long dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
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Tensions between Turkey and EU members Cyprus and Greece escalated in recent months over rights for energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said the reopening of an area in the abandoned town of Varosha to the public was incongruous with a decision at a European leaders meeting last week.
Cyprus, supported by Greece, has pushed for EU sanctions on Turkey for searching for oil and gas in areas around the island. The issue will be discussed anew in December.
"Turkey has to take a step back," Petsas said, adding that otherwise Greece and Cyprus will bring the issue before an EU summit scheduled for October 15-16.