The EU on Tuesday told Turkey to reverse plans to open up the Cypriot ghost town of Varosha, announced during a controversial visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the divided island.

The 27-nation bloc, which includes the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, condemned "Turkey's unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements".

Erdogan and Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar said last week they would open the former resort, abandoned since Ankara's 1974 invasion of the island.

Varosha has been abandoned since 1974
Varosha has been abandoned since 1974 AFP / Iakovos Hatzistavrou

A statement issued by the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell criticised the plans as breaching a series of United Nations resolutions.

The EU would consider using "instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests", it said.

In Athens, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also condemned Erdogan's remarks.

"The new Turkish illegal actions in Cyprus must be condemned unequivocally," he said.

Varosha was once the playground of celebrities
Varosha was once the playground of celebrities AFP / Iakovos Hatzistavrou

The latest declarations undermined UN resolutions and the efforts of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to resolve the longrunning dispute over the division of the island, he added.

Mitsotakis was speaking after talks with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Anastasiades said he had made it clear to Athens that they were ready to resume talks with Ankara under UN mediation, and on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a two-state solution for the island during his visit
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a two-state solution for the island during his visit AFP / Christina ASSI

Varosha -- once the playground of celebrities and dubbed a "Jewel of the Mediterranean" -- has for decades been a fenced-off ghost town, its former luxury hotels overgrown by weeds.

Erdogan vowed that "life will restart in Varosha" during his visit to mark 47 years since the invasion that split Cyprus.

The Turkish army restored public access to parts of the Varosha beachfront last year and since then a main thoroughfare, Demokratias Avenue, has also been cleared.

Erdogan, in a speech during his visit, also insisted on a two-state solution for the island -- an idea firmly rejected by both EU member the Republic of Cyprus and Brussels.

The UN Security Council on Friday also condemned Erdogan's call for two states in Cyprus and the push to reopen the resort town emptied of Greek Cypriots.

The latest moves on Cyprus by Turkey risk derailing efforts to improve ties between Ankara and the EU after a spike in tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

The EU is dangling a string of enticements in front of Erdogan, including billions of euros to help with refugees from Syria, if he makes good on pledges to mend fraught ties with the bloc.

Turkish troops seized the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to an aborted coup in Nicosia aimed at attaching the country to Greece.

The island has since been divided between the Greek Cypriot-run Republic of Cyprus and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is recognised only by Turkey.