07/24/2021 by Nicolas Barotte
Read the original article on Le Figaro
While Erdogan advocates for a two-state solution, Turkish reinvestment in the north of the island is intensifying.
The images are edifying: life is resuming in Varosha. As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the ghost town, which has symbolized the partition of Cyprus since 1974, on July 20, the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri) published a report on Turkey's " stranglehold on Northern Cyprus ". It is based in particular on the processing of satellite images by Preligens, the rising company of the French defense ecosystem. It uses artificial intelligence capabilities to develop high-precision analysis tools.
Since the flight of its inhabitants and its occupation by the Turkish army, the seaside resort of Varosha has remained locked up. But Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the authorities of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), recognized only by Ankara, have broken with the status quo and decided to reopen the town. In the last two years, the activity has intensified, according to Preligens technology, which has detected the expansion of parking in the streets of the city center. The accuracy of the images, of about 30 cm, has also allowed to see the renovation of some roads. "After identifying relevant sites to monitor with Ifri, we detected changes between 2019 and 2021. We then classified the noticed objects" explains Eve Arakelian, from the Preligens executive committee. "Activity in Varosha remained limited to a small portion of the city" she cautions.
The Turkish president is not concerned about this, as he intends to make Varosha a symbol. On Tuesday, he reiterated Ankara's will to achieve a two-state solution on the island of Cyprus. "No progress in the negotiations can be made without recognizing that there are two communities and two states" Erdogan insisted. The international community strongly rejects this option. But negotiations have stalled since 2017 between the two sides. By resettling residents in Varosha, Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus are practicing the accomplished fact policy. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, called on "all parties to refrain from any unilateral act that causes tension and risks jeopardizing" the diplomatic efforts. The Varosha rupture remains a raw wound on the Greek side.
Turkey's Cyprus strategy is also part of a regional power strategy, which satellite intelligence processing can demonstrate. Preligens has analyzed the images of the Geçitkale air base, where Turkish authorities have decided to install a drone base. One can see the successive construction of a hangar and "ground segments" enabling the piloting of aircrafts and the installation of equipment. Preligens' AI is able to identify the type of drone. "The final use of the base is still quite mysterious" describe the authors of the Ifri study, Dorothée Schmid and Yasmina Dahech. "The official discourse refers to observation drones intended to accompany Turkish gas exploration vessels, but their stationing in Cyprus obviously widens the possible area of surveillance for Turkey. And above all, these drones, when armed, are the most prominent equipment of the Turkish army at the moment" they note. Preligens also gathered images from the port of Famagusta, where Turkish "Kiliç-class" fast attack ships regularly dock. However, there is no concrete evidence of a Turkish naval base.