If the old town of Gazimağusa is full of ruins dating from the Ottoman siege, the “new town” of Varosha, now officially MARAS, is a sad reminder of a more recent conflict. Having been expelled from the old town in the 1570s, the Greeks established a prosperous settlement here, surrounded by orange groves. Over the years the population of the new town eclipsed that of the old and in the twentieth century its beach area, Glossa, became an upmarket resort, “The Monte Carlo of the Middle East”, visited by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. During the 1974 invasion, the Turkish army seized Varosha in its entirety, forcing its Greek population to flee to the south. Today, sealed off by fences, barbed wire and checkpoints, it festers in the sun, its high-rise hotels crumbling, its cracked tarmac claimed by weeds and scrub.
For almost forty years the fate of Varosha has been a painful source of resentment among Greek Cypriots and a strong bargaining tool for the Turks who have deliberately avoided any development of the resort. Various proposals have been put forward to end the impasse – the latest to turn the town into a UN-administered buffer zone which would allow Greek Cypriots to return as an act of goodwill, rather than a prelude to reunification. This would, it is thought, help grease the wheels of Turkey’s accession to the EU. In August 2012 President Demetris Christofias said Varosha “can, as in the past, be a bridge of peace, hope, cooperation and cohabitation”, and it has been one of the issues mentioned in ongoing negotiations during 2015 and 2016.