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Letter to UK Secretary of State for Transport

Secretary of State for Transport
The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP
 
Dear Sirs,
 
Re: Direct flights to North Cyprus from UK and your new unjust decision
 
We hope that this letter finds you in good health and we wish you a successful election campaign.
 
We write to express our dismay, at what we understand is a new decision by the British Government, which in essence is increasing  the injustices against the Turkish Cypriots.
 
After the Annan Plan referendum in 2004 (which was aimed at bringing about a solution to the long-standing Cyprus problem, supported by the international community and the UK Government) which was rejected by 76% of the Greek Cypriots whilst accepted by 65% of  the Turkish Cypriots, numerous promises concerning the ending of the restrictions and the start of direct flights to North Cyprus Ercan airport was clearly stipulated.
 
On 18 May 2004, the then British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: ‚ÄúI¬†think it is important that we end the isolation of Northern Cyprus.¬†That means lifting the embargoes in respect to trade, and in respect to air travel.‚Ä̬†Furthermore, the then EU Enlargement Commissioner, G√ľnter¬†Verheugen, ¬†expressly stated that direct flights to North Cyprus would commence.¬† On the¬† 26 April, 2004, ¬†Council of Europe 2576¬†press release,¬† stated:¬†‚ÄúThe Council is determined to put an end to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community and to facilitate the reunification of Cyprus by encouraging the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community. The Council invited the Commission to bring forward comprehensive proposals to this end, with particular emphasis on the economic integration of the island and on improving contact between the two communities and with the EU.‚ÄĚ
 
In all our meetings and communications with the British officials, we stressed that the easing or ending the restrictions imposed on the Turkish Cypriot people should be treated as an Human Rights issue, allowing our community to live, travel and trade freely. We continue to believe that this is a moral, legal and ethical obligation when the historical and current situation of Cyprus is considered. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), Article 2, states¬†‚Äúno distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty‚ÄĚ. Consequently, the ‚Äúnon-recognition‚ÄĚ of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) should be treated as a separate issue to the ending of the isolation.¬† This was indeed the position taken by the international community and Her Majesty‚Äôs government in 2004, which we understand continuous to exist.
 
Allowing the Turkish Cypriot economy to develop will greatly facilitate the economical  integration of the island and narrow the disparity which currently exists, whilst at the same time motivate the Greek Cypriots (who rejected the Annan Plan and unilaterally became an EU member) to accommodate a solution based on established UN Parameters.
 
With this in mind, we are outraged to learn that, a request has been made (for the first time) by the British authorities for Pegasus Airlines to ‚Äúdisembark‚ÄĚ passengers travelling to and from North Cyprus during their touch down at an airport in Turkey, and to subject them to re-screening.¬†¬† At a time when millions of travellers of British, Turkish Cypriot and other nationalities, using North Cyprus Ercan Airport await for direct flights, this new ‚Äėpolitical decision‚Äô seems to have been made by Her Majesty‚Äôs Government which effectively tightens the isolation.
 
We understand that the letter communicated to Pegasus Airlines by a British official indicates that the reason for this is because Ercan Airport is not ‚Äúvisible‚ÄĚ to the British authorities.¬† Can we please ask for a clarification as to what this means? ¬†Why is the British Government asking for passengers to go through re-screening in Turkey, even though passengers travelling on many airlines have since 1997 been allowed to wait inside the aircraft during the touchdown period.
 
If the reason for this decision is security concerns, it is much more humane for the UK and Turkish Cypriot authorities to work together in every field, which does not constitute political recognition. In fact, in a landmark ruling in February 2017, an English¬†High Court deemed ‚Äėcooperation‚Äô between UK and Turkish Cypriot police authorities for the prosecution of fugitives as not being forbidden by ‚Äúany clause of domestic law‚ÄĚ. Surely, if the reason is purely for security reasons, such cooperation, rather than additional restrictions causing hardship for all passengers, especially elderly, disabled and those with young children using Ercan airport, would be the better way to handle any such concern.
 
We feel that as a guarantor, the UK is employing discriminatory measures against the Turkish Cypriots contravening human rights issues as well as the international efforts to end the isolation on them. 
 
In the hope that the UK Government will take action to end the isolation on the Turkish Cypriots and review this unfortunate request for passengers travelling to and from North Cyprus via Turkey to disembark, we look forward to hearing from you in due course.  
 
Yours Sincerely
 
Kerem Hasan
ATCA ‚Äď TRNC Representative

Read the response from UK Secretary of State for Transport

 

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