Politicians call for end to northern Cyprus direct flight ban

A cross-party group of politicians has urged outgoing foreign secretary Lord Cameron to end the UK’s ban on direct flights to northern Cyprus.

Currently flights from the UK to Ercan international airport near Nicosia involve a short stop in Turkey.

Direct flights from the UK are prohibited because the UK, in common with EU states and the US, does not recognise the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

The parliamentarians, including former foreign secretary Jack Straw, wrote to Lord Cameron last week, calling for “the commencement of direct flights from the United Kingdom to Ercan International Airport – the largest airport on the island of Cyprus”.

The group pointed to the UK allowing flights to non-UN member states such as Kosovo, and to countries that it doesn’t recognise such as Taiwan.

They warned that if the UK continues to fail to engage with the TRNC, it will “risk letting countries such as Russia and Iran do so instead – fundamentally challenging the UK’s strategic foothold in the eastern Mediterranean”.

Chet Ramadan, founder of Freedom and Fairness for Northern Cyprus, said: “It is time that the UK ends their regressive ban on flights to the TRNC. This is something that was promised 20 years ago and has yet to be fulfilled.

“300,000 Turkish Cypriots live in the UK, and 15,000 British expats live in Northern Cyprus. The onerous and unnecessary flight rules only create a cruel burden for those wishing to visit family members or go on holiday.

“UK parties must commit to allowing direct flights to restart and we will repeat this call to whoever forms the next government.”

The island has been divided since 1974 when a coup aimed to unite Cyprus with mainland Greece. This resulted in Cyprus being invaded by Turkey and the division of the island which remains to this day.

The Independent noted that Jack Straw, as Labour’s foreign secretary, oversaw the failed talks on the Annan Plan in 2004 which would have reunited the island.

The UK’s FCDO travel advice for Cyprus notes: “The self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ is not recognised by the British government and FCDO’s ability to offer consular assistance there is limited.”

UK operators offering holidays to northern Cyprus include Balkan Holidays and Newmarket Holidays.

Picture of Ercan international airport by Cem OZER/Shutterstock.com

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