NEWS

Cyprus protests Turkey’s turning back of aircraft

NICOSIA (AFP) – The Cyprus government yesterday accused Turkish authorities of violating the EU customs agreement by denying landing permission to a German plane that had flown from a Cypriot airport. A German charter flight wanting to fly directly from Paphos airport to pick up tourists in Turkey was denied access into Turkish air space on Monday after the authorities had agreed on the flight path with Eurocontrol. «The Turkish authorities made no objections when the flight program was submitted to them,» said Cypriot government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides. «However, when the flight was to take place objections were made, not through our own civil aviation, but through Greece,» he added. The spokesman accused the Turks of «deception» by first agreeing with European air traffic control but then going back on their word and reverting to a «longstanding policy of prohibiting flights» from Cyprus. According to Turkish-Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi, the German aircraft was denied permission to land at Dalaman airport, to pick up tourists holidaying in nearby Antalya, because it took off from the Greek-Cypriot south. Last month Turkey began European Union accession talks although it still refuses to recognize EU member Cyprus. A condition for joining the bloc is that Ankara honor its signature on extending a customs protocol to all 25 members, including Cyprus. This means lifting an embargo on Cypriot ships and planes entering Turkish ports. The Cyprus issue is a stumbling block for Turkey’s European aspirations, with tensions rising over Ankara’s refusal to recognize Cyprus. Turkey says it will not recognize the Greek-Cypriot government until a comprehensive settlement is reached on Cyprus with the Turkish Cypriots, but EU officials warn that Ankara cannot join the bloc without recognizing all its members. Cyprus has been divided for 31 years, since Turkey seized and occupied its northern third in response to an Athens-engineered Greek-Cypriot coup aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece.