Before 1974, the Varosha district of Famagusta in Cyprus was a popular tourist area, with 12,000 hotel rooms and 25,000 inhabitants.
Then the area was invaded by Turkish forces.
More than 150,000 residents had to leave their homes. The area was closed and used as a bargaining chip in the ceasefire between Turkish Northern Cyprus and Greek Southern Cyprus.
Since then, it has been a ghost town, reports The Guardian. Famagusta was named “The Forbidden City”.
But now, after 46 years, the city has reopened.
It was the leader of Northern Cyprus, Ersin Tatar, who promised to open the holiday paradise this week.
– We start the process of people using the public areas, Sahil and Democracy streets and beaches. Maras, which was a ghost town, is now coming to life again, he said on Thursday.
He received support from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, writes CNN.
Hundreds of people are said to have streamed in through the gates when the barricades were removed, celebrating that they could finally use the beach area. Now the beach will be open from 09 to 17 every day.
However, the opening was also met with resistance. Pictures show demonstrations outside the Turkish embassy in Athens, with posters with the text “Erdogan, Varosha will get his revenge”.
Residents who were chased from the area in 1974 also protested against the opening.
– How can you not be upset by what you have seen today? Varosha should have been given back to its owners. This is psychologically exhausting, says the Greek-Cypriot mayor Simos Ioannou in Famagusta.
Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades says the opening is illegal and a clear violation of UN resolutions. On Wednesday this week, the EU condemned the reopening, calling it a serious ceasefire.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell says the opening will intensify the conflict.
“The opening of this area, which is a closed area under the UN ceasefire, is a serious breach of this agreement,” Borrell said.
– This will not help. On the contrary, it will make it more difficult to reach agreement on a particularly difficult situation for all of us in the eastern Mediterranean, he added.
Relations between Greece and Cyprus are already tense, as both countries hunt for gas resources in the sea area and conduct military exercises, according to Reuters.
If the diplomatic dispute over Varosha escalates, it will put further pressure on relations between Greece and Turkey.
The UN Security Council has announced a meeting on the situation. Borell will ask for a statement in which Turkey is asked to stop “this activity”.