Lefkoşa’da Bir Kent Heterotopyası

logo.png Detay Gazetesi, 13 Temmuz 2017 

cerenbogac.jpg

Yrd. Doç. Dr. Ceren Boğaç

ceren.bogac@emu.edu.tr

Doğu Akdeniz Üniversitesi

Kentsel  Araştırma ve  Geliştirme Merkezi

 

Uzun bir aradan sonra Kıbrıs’ta yeniden sanal mekânlardan somut mekânlara geçmeye çalışan bir barış eyleminin sesleri yükselmeye başladı. Hala daha ‘kent ölçeğinde uzlaşma mekânı’ kavram ve pratiğinden uzak bir toplum olarak, düşünce ve arzularımızın üç boyutlu zemine nasıl taşınabileceği konusunda çelişkiler yaşıyoruz. Bireyin özgürleşebileceği mekân şöyle dursun, toplumsal dayanışmayı meşrulaştırabilecek kamusal alanlarımız yok. Ama taleplerimiz var: Eşit hak, adalet, özgürlük, demokrasi ve barış!

Kıbrıs’ın hem Kuzey’inde hem Güney’inde böyle bir eylemi kaldıracak kapasitede mekân var mı?

Bu soru çerçevesinden düşününce, öncelikli olarak sosyal aktörlerin bu barışçıl praksisi, kamusal mekândaki toplumsal okumaları yeniden gözden geçirmeye zorluyor bizi. Kıbrıs’ın bir çok kenti gibi, Lefkoşa üzerine de onlarca araştırma, tez çalışması, plan vs. mevcut.  Ancak adanın fiili olarak ortadan bölünmüş kenti olan Lefkoşa üzerine henüz bir psikocoğrafik okuma gerçekleştirilmiş değil. 1950’li yıllarda Guy Debord tarafından tanımlanan psikocoğrafya, kentin olumlu ve olumuz özelliklerinin insan psikolojisi üzerinde oluşturduğu etkileri inceleyen alan olarak betimlenmektedir (Debord, 2008). Modernizm’in insan arzu ve beklentileri ile çelişen planlama yaklaşımına karşın, kentlerin nasıl daha yaşanabilir olabileceğine yönelik ortaya atılan eleştiriler sonucunda geliştirilen kavram, kente dair duygu haritaları ve sosyal okumalar açısından etkin bir yöntem olarak kullanılmaktadır (Coverley, 2006). Kent siyaseti üzerine de ipuçları veren bu okumalar,   öznenin varoluş alanlarının sınır ve işgallerini anlamak açısından önemlidir. Bu okumalar doğru yapıldığı takdirde insanların nasıl mekânlarda bir araya gelmeyi arzuladığı, ortak bir kent belleği ve aidiyetinin nasıl geliştirilebileceğine dair ciddi ip uçlarına ulaşılacaktır. Ancak bu kent okuması, Umberto Eco’nun bahsettiği gibi ‘çoğul okuma’, yani aktörlerin hem çatışmalarının hem de birbirleriyle örüntülerinin ayrıntılı bir şekilde ele alınacağı şekilde yapılmalıdır (Eco, 1992).

Lefkoşa’nın en büyük kentsel çelişkisi olan ikiye bölünmüşlük noktasından insanların birleşmeye çalışması karma bir kent okuması için eşsiz bir fırsattır.

Sosyoloji ve felsefe alanlarında önemli çalışmalara imza atmış Henri Lefebvre bir kentte tüm duygu ve olay dizilimlerinin kesiştiği ve vuku bulduğu noktanın ‘sokak’ olduğunu iddia eder (Lefebvre, 2011).  Bu nedenle iktidarın mutlak otoritesinin korumasının yolu sokağı kontrol altında tutmasından geçmektedir. Belki de bu yüzden, Lefkoşa’nın merkezinde yer alan Ledra sokağı,  1963 yılında Kuzey ve Güney’den iki toplumunayrı ayrı ördüğü barikatlarla Kıbrıs’ın ilk bölünme noktası olarak tarihteki yerini almış ve 45 yıl süren bir ayrılıktan sonra 2008 yılında, Lokmacı sınır kapısı ile yaya geçişine tekrardan açılmıştır. Bu günlerde ise Kıbrıs’ta kalıcı bir barışı talep eden kitlelerin, yoğun duygu deneyimlerini barından olaylar örgüsüne alan sunmaktadır.

Burada toplum ve mekân ilişkisininyeniden biçimlendiği eşiği özellikle anlamak gerekir. Çünkü bu kez kentsel mekânı üreten, mimar, kentsel tasarımcı veya kent plancıları değil (Ne yazık ki, yaşam alanlarını şekillendirmeyi amaçlayan  bu meslek grubu çoğu zaman gelenek ekseninde dönerek, geleceğe bakamıyor). Toplumları bölmek için fiziki sınırlar oluşturan iktidar mekanizmaları hiç değil. Barış eşiği olarak uzun zamandır kimsesiz kalmış bir mekânı dönüştüren bireylerin ta kendisi. Üstelik bu kişiler, insan zincirleri oluşturarak ayrık mekânları birbirine eklemeye çalışıyor. Uzun zamandır  suskunluğa mahkum edilmiş bir mekân olan ‘sınır’ın kimliksizliğini sarmalıyor…

Müşterekler’in birleşme noktası: Lokmacı sınır kapısı

ledra-2017_01

Fotoğraf: Hüseyin Özinal, 2017

Bu uzamsal sarmalın barış eşiği oluşturduğu ve bunun da Lefkoşa’nın belki de -Foucault’un tanımladığı şekli ile- kolektif bir kent heterotopyası olabileceği akla geliyor. Foucault ilk kez “Kelimeler ve Şeyler” kitabında ‘heterotopya’ kavramını tanımlamıştır (Foucault, 2013). Heterotopya terimi Foucault’un türettiği bir kelime değildir. Tıp literatüründe bir organın olması gereken yerden farklı bir yerde oluştuğunu betimleyen bir anomalidir. ‘Hetero’ sözcüğü ‘karşı’, ‘topya’ ise ‘yer’ anlamına gelir. Heteropya, Foucault’un ütopyaya karşı geliştirdiği bir kavramdır ve somut bir mekânın içinde, yatay ve düşey örüntülü,ard arda duran,birçok mekân ve zaman içermesini tasvir eder. Bu öznenin iktidarla olan ilişkisini tersyüz ederek özgürleştiği yeni bir mekânsal düzlemdir.

Kent literatürü üzerine son yıllarda ortaya atılan tartışmaların çoğu, kamusal alandaki sosyal ilişki örüntüleri ekseninde dönmektedir. Stavros Stavrides de, “Kentsel Heterotopya: Özgürleşme Mekânı Olarak Eşikler Kentine Doğru” (2016) isimli yapıtında, kamusal mekânlarda, farklılıkları ekseninde karşılaşan ‘müşterekler’in, yeni örgütlenme biçimleri ile “kolektif düşleri ifade edebilen başka mümkün toplumsal dünyalar” şekillenmesine öncülük edeceğini söylemektedir.

Lokmacı sınır kapısında bir araya gelen, birlikte dans eden, şarkı söyleyen, oyunlar oynayan, farklı demografik özelliklere sahip bu kişiler, ‘sınır’ mekânını dönüştürerek, yeni bir anlam düzlemi yaratmış ve bir beden deneyimi üzerindenyeni bir bellek oluşturulmaya başlamıştır. Bu, kentte yeni bir morfogenetikalan [1] oluşmasına imkan sağlayacak normatif düzlemi ters-yüz eden müşterek bir eylem olarak tarih döngüsündeki yerini alacaktır. Sınır mekânı burada bir iktidar aracı ve alanı olmaktan çıkmış, ‘ötekilik mekânı’ olarak özneye bağımsız bir varoluş yeri sunmuştur.

Gelmekte olan ortaklık

ledra-2017_02

Fotoğraf: Hüseyin Özinal, 2017

İtalyan filozof  Giorgio Agamben “Gelmekte Olan Ortaklık” isimli kitabında, denetimin, ötekileştirilmenin ve bağdaşıklaşmanın ötesinde bireylerin ‘gelmekte olan bir ortaklık yaratması’nın gelecek için bir kırılma noktası oluşturduğundan bahseder (Agamben, 2012) . Önce Lokmacı ardından Ledra Palas sınırında buluşan ve 43 yıllık ayrıştırmayı geride bırakan bu ortaklar, Agamben’in homojen bir kimliğe veya aidiyete sahip olmayan ‘herhangi tekillik’ diye tasvir ettiği bireyleri akla getirir.

Agamben her türlü iktidar için dehşet verici olan bu ortaklığın, ciddi bir tehdit unsuru oluşturacağı için, şiddetle baskılanacağının altını çizer. Eylemin kapsamı ve şu ana kadar ki seyri düşünülecek olursa, Kıbrıs’ta böyle bir şey yaşanacağına dair bir olasılık görünmemektedir; ancak dört yanı silahlarla çevrili bir adada barışın kendine alan açması kolay da değildir…

Kaynaklar

Agamben, G. (2012). Gelmekte Olan Ortaklık (Çev. Betül Parlak). İstanbul: MonoKL.

Coverley, M. (2006). Psychogeography. London: Pocket Essentials.

Debord, G. (2008). “Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography”. [Les Levrés Nues, 1955]. Ken Knabb (Tr.). Critical Geographies: A Collection of Readings. H. Bauder – Di Mauro (Ed.). Kanada: Praxis. 23-27.

Eco, U. (1992). Açık Yapıt (Çev. Y. Şahan), İstanbul: Kabalcı.

Foucault,M. (2013). Kelimeler ve Şeyler: İnsan Bilimlerinin Bir Arkeolojisi(Çev. Mehmet Ali Kılıçbay), Ankara: İmge Kitabevi Yayınları.

Foucault, M. (2000).“Başka Mekânlara Dair”, Özne ve İktidar (Çev. Işık Ergüden), İstanbul:  Ayrıntı Yayınları.

Lefebvre, H. (2011). Kentsel Devrim (Çev. S. Sezer), İstanbul: Sel.

Stavrides, S. (2016).  Kentsel Heterotopya: Özgürleşme Mekânı Olarak Eşikler Kentine Doğru (Çev.Ali Karatay), İstanbul: Sel Yayınarı.


[1] Bir canlının oluşumu, davranış biçimleri ve başka canlılarla ilişkilerinin belirlenmesi.

Stories for Peace

cerenbogac.com

Amelia and Me at Walledcity Famagusta

We shared two ‘peace’ stories with the editor in chief of www.coastalseekers.com Amelia and her partner Josh. This inspiring couple created an online platform for travel video/ bloggers to share their stories. There are many ways for peace making; art, architecture, storytelling, permaculture, economy and many more. Our first story came from art in which my father talked all about the “Risky Travels”.  Second story followed as “The Famagusta Ecocity Project” which displays great potential for a peaceful co-existence. Thanks to Amelia and Josh for making us part of their stories in Cyprus.

cerenbogac.com

Me, Munise and Amelia, hanging out in Famagusta

cerenbogac.com

Josh and Amelia, interview with Baki Bogac

Interview for EL PAÍS Newspaper

We may not be close to find a permenant solution to the Cyprus problem yet. However we need to learn to cooperate together in order to provide a sustainable future to our children. No matter what, we will keep on sharing our common vision for an integrated, peaceful and ecological city and a better life for all! Thanks to María Hervás from the Spanish leading newspaper EL PAÍS for making us part of their review on Cyprus.

Cyprus: The Trapped Treasures of a Divided Island

»Source: Euronews

euronews“Good morning everybody, welcome to this amazing walking and talking tour of the wonderful city of Famagusta,” says archaeologist and art historian guide Anna Marangou. As always, she and her fellow guide Orhan have words in Greek and Turkish to welcome their party.

Their bi-communal efforts was one of the examples recognized by the Stelios Foundation bi-communal initiative rewards.

Anna is Greek Cypriot, and co-guide Orhan is Turkish Cypriot. Together they take their fellow islanders around discovering Cyprus’s rich cultural heritage. The island has been divided since 1974, with Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the north.

Today they are taking a group of Greek Cypriots around the medieval city of Famagusta, in the north. It was once Cyprus’s biggest port, and a shared past is everywhere.

“We shared this cultural heritage from the very ancient times until today. We can live together and we have proved it, because the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been working together,” says Anna.

Common prosperity is one of the driving hopes of those who strive for reunification.
Many sectors could benefit, not the least tourism.
But it is not what motivates Anna and Orhan the most.

“We are doing it, not for benefits, not to earn money, but to earn our future, and to make a good country for our future for our children and grand-children,” says Orhan Tolun.

The visit ends at one of the conflict’s most symbolic sites, Varosha, the former beachside district of Famagusta.

Under the watchful eye of the Turkish army the area has been abandoned since its Greek Cypriot inhabitants fled over 40 years ago.

“Filming is not allowed in the ghost town of Varosha, the symbol of divided Cyprus,” reports euronews’ Valerie Gauriat. “But if reunification took place, it could become a symbol of a new golden age for the island.”

ecocity

Andreas and Ceren want to believe that.
He is Greek Cypriot, she is Turkish Cypriot. Both are architects, and are part of an ambitious reconstruction project. They imagine Famagusta as an eco-city, a possible model for sustainable development and also the flagship of reunification.

“It can become a hub of civilisations and commerce, with a Levantine coastline across. It can aim to sustain the existing buildings, preserving memories, and at the same time benefit from 21st century infrastructure and practices regarding ecological performance,” says Andreas Lordos.

For his Turkish Cypriot colleague, the project could be a model of reconciliation.

“I think this project is giving voice to many trapped souls. And we’re trying to pull them from behind this unreal curtain.These people once lived in here, and they want to live again. And half of their soul is there. And half of our soul is also empty. Because we cannot get integrated,” she says.

The Cypriot business world also strive for an integration which could boost the economy as a whole.
The president of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce north of Nicosia, believes a political solution would produce a great leap forward .

“The Turkish Cypriot community will be freed of sanctions. And we will be able to benefit from the entire Cypriot market. Not to mention other European markets.

The geopolitics in the eastern Mediterranean will benefit hugely, because it will enhance regional cooperation. The Greek Cypriot community will immediately enjoy the economic benefits of being able to trade with Turkey,” says Fikri Toros.

Meanwhile, “You still need to go through checkpoints to get from one side of the island to the other. Trade is limited by the so-called green line regulations and, in the absence of a political solution, represents less than 10% of the potential commerce,” says Valérie Gauriat.

Some companies have been able to maintain an enduring cross-border dialogue, and are merely waiting for the restrictions to be lifted says the president of the Cypriot Republic’s Chamber of Commerce in southern Nicosia.
So are foreign investors.

“The business communities are already talking to each other, about possible partnerships, joint ventures, or cooperation. Talking to investors, I believe that there will be a renewed interest for large projects. Let’s not forget that Cyprus is on the route of transporting to Europe natural gas, a lot of which has been discovered in the eastern Mediterranean basin.” says Phidias K. Pilides.

How a ghost town embodies the Cypriot divide

a-j-e-overlay-copy

»Source: Al Jazeera

As political negotiations continue, one group is pushing to revitalise the long-abandoned district of Varosha.

12fbc22422ed4e48b7412f3d171e4ea6_18

Organisers of the Famagusta Ecocity Project hope that Varosha, which has been walled off since 1974, could become part of a larger ecocity [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

 by 

Famagusta, Cyprus – Four decades ago, time froze in the coastal Cypriot district of Varosha.

Eggs were still boiling on hot stovetops. Children’s toys remained strewn across living-room floors. Clothes were left on their hangers inside brimming closets, a testament to the thousands of lives that were abandoned in an instant.

Greek Cypriots thought it was a temporary measure when the Turkish military ordered them out of their homes in Varosha, a district of the city of Famagusta, in the summer of 1974. But 42 years have since come and gone, and Varosha remains a ghost town – a hulking blight that towers over the Mediterranean seascape. Empty apartment windows gaze out over families playing beach volleyball, while barbed-wire fencing cuts a swath across the sand, patrolled by armed soldiers.

Children dart in and out of the shallow surf, oblivious to the ever-present tension. It has been this way all their lives.

b503737cf75a421a874459254ae9a31d_18

Deserted towers in Varosha overlook a thriving beach resort in the Cypriot city of Famagusta [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Cyprus is a country divided. Following centuries of Ottoman rule, the tiny island nation was formally annexed by Britain in 1914, spurring resistance from Greek Cypriots who sought to unify the country with Greece. Five years of guerrilla warfare ended with Cyprus gaining independence in 1960, but despite a power-sharing deal struck between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, tensions between the two communities continued to mount.

Varosha has been abandoned since Turkey took control of northern Cyprus in the summer of 1974 [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Varosha has been abandoned since Turkey took control of northern Cyprus in the summer of 1974 [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

In 1974, a decade after the United Nations established a peacekeeping force in Cyprus to stem rising violence, Greece staged a coup, attempting to wrest control of the island from former President Archbishop Makarios III. The move failed, and Turkey responded by sending military forces to northern Cyprus. Tens of thousands of Greek Cypriots fled south, while a smaller population of Turkish Cypriots living in southern Cyprus fled north.

The division and military occupation persists to this day, with the six-square-kilometre ghost town of Varosha standing as one of its most iconic emblems. But as negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders continue – with a joint progress report expected this week – one group is hoping to change that.

“Varosha represents the stagnancy of the Cyprus problem. It’s a physical representation of a decades-long conflict that persists and persists, causing despair in the spirit of the people,” said filmmaker Vasia Markides, who is leading the Famagusta Ecocity Project, an initiative aimed at reviving Varosha and reintegrating it with the rest of Famagusta to create “Europe’s model ecocity” – a walkable, solar-powered, environmentally sustainable hub. Her documentary on the project, slated for release later this year, aims to rally more support.

“To see Varosha and Famagusta as a whole becoming an ecocity would be the ultimate goal,” Markides told Al Jazeera, noting that Varosha in its current state foreshadows “what could come if we don’t transform our lifestyle towards one that respects not only one another, but also the natural world”.

Children playing on the street can be seen through the window of a deserted church in Famagusta [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Children playing on the street can be seen through the window of a deserted church in Famagusta [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Markides’ mother grew up in Varosha, once a thriving stretch of coastline that was reportedly a destination for film stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot. For Markides’ mother, though, her strongest memories include the rich smells of jasmine and citrus blossoms that wafted through the air, and spending her childhood playing among the reeds on the beach.

Over the past few years, Markides has assembled a small team – including Turkish-Cypriot architect Ceren Bogac and Greek-Cypriot urban planner Nektarios Christodoulou, among others – to help generate momentum and collect ideas on how to convert Famagusta into an ecocity. Because the project would involve the entire city and not just the deserted district of Varosha, it would entail a wholesale rethink of the streetscape, electrical infrastructure and building design, while also aiming to preserve as many historic structures as possible.

 

“People have very romantic images of this place … Some people don’t even know that giant trees have grown through their houses and demolished everything, and there is not much to save.”

Ceren Bogac, architect

The goal is not simply to open a time capsule, but rather to unify Varosha with the rest of the city, Christodoulou said.

“We need to talk about Famagusta as a whole,” he told Al Jazeera, noting that beyond reopening the area physically, the ecocity project could help to mitigate regional tensions by bringing Greek and Turkish Cypriots together to work towards a common goal.

“We are not looking to design the city [ourselves]. We just want to provide a platform where these issues can be discussed by both communities,” Christodoulou said. “We have seen that environmental issues [and] cultural protection issues can bring people together across the border, discussing them without ethnicity constantly being the separating factor.”

09d78552956b46cb9166e9c94e50d8ac_18

Turkish-Cypriot architect Ceren Bogac and Greek-Cypriot urban planner Nektarios Christodoulou stand in front of empty buildings in Varosha [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

For Bogac, 37, the story is also deeply personal. Her father’s family came to Famagusta from the southern port city of Larnaca after the 1974 partitioning, and she grew up in a house that looked out over the makeshift fence around Varosha – a tangle of barbed wire, wooden planks and sheet metal, peppered with signs declaring it the “Forbidden Zone”.

“I was always facing the border line. It was terrible. It was very traumatic,” Bogac told Al Jazeera in an interview along the beachfront next to Varosha.

“I was seeing the same curtains deteriorating every year. I thought about the people who were staying there; were they children? Were they happy? Some of the houses were beautiful. The idea of waking up in the Mediterranean, waking up to the sand, and losing this … Building a house is easy, but turning it into a home by adding memories is not.”

Famagusta's current population of 40,000 could swell to more than 200,000 upon the reopening of Varosha and the larger redevelopment of the city [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Famagusta’s current population of 40,000 could swell to more than 200,000 upon the reopening of Varosha and the larger redevelopment of the city [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Political challenges ahead

Despite growing interest among both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, however, the ecocity project still faces massive obstacles. It is contingent upon negotiators reaching a solution to the broader Cyprus dispute, until which time, Varosha will remain frozen in its current state. And even if a resolution were to be struck and Varosha reopened to the public, there could be numerous claims on the abandoned properties by the descendants of developers.

Then would come the significant challenge of reaching a consensus on how to rebuild the city in a manner that suited both its current residents, and those who wanted to relocate to Famagusta. The current population of 40,000 could swell to more than 200,000 upon the reopening of Varosha and the larger redevelopment of the city, Bogac estimated – and many may not be prepared for what they would find upon arrival.

“People have very romantic images of this place, so they remember it exactly as they left it in 1974,” she said. “Some people don’t even know that giant trees have grown through their houses and demolished everything, and there is not much to save.”

Christodoulou recently worked on a “mental map” study of Famagusta, asking around 500 Greek and Turkish Cypriots to sketch their image of the city’s existing urban fabric. The results showed a stark contrast in their understanding of the city, with Greek Cypriots mainly recalling features of southern Famagusta, including Varosha, and Turkish Cypriots focusing primarily on the north.

“They designed two different cities,” Christodoulou said, noting that to Turkish Cypriots, “Varosha was the colour of the sea; it didn’t exist”.

famagusta

Paul Dobraszczyk, a visiting lecturer at London’s Bartlett School of Architecture and author of the forthcoming book, The Dead City: Urban Ruins and the Spectacle of Decay, is among the few people who have been inside Varosha since it was walled off in 1974. He snuck through a hole in the fence in 2013 and says he was struck by the sense of serenity amid the desolate homes.

“I had expected to find it upsetting, but it felt so untouched and so quiet that I experienced it as very peaceful and tranquil. Everywhere, nature had begun to overtake the buildings and streets, and most of the buildings were inhabited by pigeons and other animals,” Dobraszczyk told Al Jazeera. “You could also hear many sounds just outside the Forbidden Zone; I remember the call to prayer from Famagusta, and the sound of children playing in a school just outside the fence.”

“I would argue that the 40-plus years of abandonment should not be forgotten, but integrated into any proposal for renovating the buildings and reopening the Forbidden Zone.”

Paul Dobraszczyk, author

Dobraszczyk, who has done substantial research on the role of abandoned spaces in society, expressed concern that the ecocity project could involve the demolition of many of Varosha’s old buildings.

“I would argue that the 40-plus years of abandonment should not be forgotten, but integrated into any proposal for renovating the buildings and reopening the Forbidden Zone,” he said.

“Of course, the expense would be enormous, but to demolish and rebuild the town would be to ignore its recent history. Far better would be to try and incorporate some of the ruins into a new town, renovate others, and rebuild others with recycled and salvaged materials [to] produce a unique urban environment.”

An abandoned plane rests at the old Nicosia Airport, which fell into disuse in 1974 and constitutes part of the UN buffer zone in Cyprus [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

An abandoned plane rests at the old Nicosia Airport, which fell into disuse in 1974 and constitutes part of the UN buffer zone in Cyprus [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

About an hour’s drive west of Varosha stands another relic of the 1974 conflict. The Nicosia Airport has stood abandoned for four decades, part of the buffer zone established by the UN, which is tasked with maintaining order in the region while finding a resolution to the Cypriot dispute.

Just steps from the old airport terminal – which still features decaying posters advertising Seiko watches and Bata shoes – stands a building that, since May 2015, has hosted UN-brokered negotiations between Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades.

Old advertisements can be seen on the walls of the deserted airport terminal [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Old advertisements can be seen on the walls of the deserted airport terminal [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Aleem Siddique, a spokesperson for the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, told Al Jazeera that the talks covered a raft of issues, from power-sharing, to the economy, to security arrangements. Negotiations have entered an “intensive phase”, with a public update from the two leaders slated for Wednesday, he added.

“The Cyprus peace talks … continue to make good progress in an atmosphere of trust and goodwill,” Siddique said, noting that any resolution would include stipulations governing the fate of contested sites such as Varosha.

“Both leaders have expressed their hope of reaching a comprehensive settlement by the end of 2016. If an agreement is reached, both sides intend to hold a referendum for voters to decide the outcome.”

However, despite being backed by a majority of Turkish Cypriots, a previous referendum calling for reunification failed in 2004, after three-quarters of Greek Cypriots voted against it.

The empty buildings in Varosha have become just another feature of the landscape for Famagusta beachgoers [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

The empty buildings in Varosha have become just another feature of the landscape for Famagusta beachgoers [Wojtek Arciszewski/Al Jazeera]

Back on the edges of Varosha, a handful of tourists peer over the makeshift fence surrounding the deserted district, as Turkish soldiers stand idle on a nearby rooftop.

Jutting up at peculiar angles, the planks and rusted metal sheets comprising the fence appear to have been hurled upon the beach, like a shipwreck. On the other side, sloping drifts of sand are strewn with weedy outgrowths.

The fence stretches the perimeter of Varosha, effectively severing it from the adjacent city. Famagusta residents living along this line look upon it every day from their front porches – a view of emptiness and decay, of rusted doors that have fallen off their hinges and come to rest against wrought-iron balcony railings. The fence itself has been in place so long that it, too, has started to slump in places, as nature strains to reassert itself from within Varosha’s boundaries.

The state of the fence is a sign of hope for Famagusta, Christodoulou said, as he gazed out across the empty district under a setting sun.

“This shows that there can be a transition,” he said, “that things can change.”

Follow Megan O’Toole on Twitter: @megan_otoole

Source: Al Jazeera