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Political opponents unite to demand end of Turkish Cypriot isolation

View from Westminster

A cross-party group of 50 influential politicians have urged foreign secretary Lord Cameron to end the UK’s “punitive and unfair ban” on direct flights to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

The letter was sent to the foreign secretary as last ditch effort before Parliament is dissolved for the general election but had the support of Labour’s Lord Straw and Tory Sir Iain Duncan Smith among other.

The move comes as Cyprus’ divided island is set to mark 50 years since the crisis which saw them split into rival parts and is still to be resolved.

While the move is too late to influence the current government policy of not allowing flights or recognising the elected government in the TRNC, MPs and peers hope that it will be a prompt for whoever wins the next election.

Lord Straw supports direct flights to the TRNC
Lord Straw supports direct flights to the TRNC

As Labour’s foreign secretary Lord Straw oversaw the failed talks on the Anan Plan in 2004 which would have reunited the island but failed despite the north voting in favour because the Greek Cypriots in the south rejected the proposals in a referendum.

He has spoken of his regret of the UK allowing Cyprus into the EU a week later when the Annan Plan had been a condition of entry.

The parliamentarians wrote to Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, raising serious concerns over the treatment of the TRNC and calling for “the commencement of direct flights from the United Kingdom to Ercan International Airport – the largest airport on the island of Cyprus”.

They want the Foreign Secretary to end “one of the most restrictive policies of any country in Europe when it comes to air travel to Ercan”.

MP and peers wrote to Lord Cameron (Lucy North/PA)
MP and peers wrote to Lord Cameron (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

They point to the UK allowing flights to non-UN member states such as Kosovo, and to countries that it doesn’t recognise such as Taiwan. The question is “why not to Northern Cyprus?”

They claim that air travel to the TRNC is not a risk and there is no history of poor safety. They claim that Ercan Airport abides by international aviation security standards, and safely hosts hundreds of thousands of passengers each year.

But the parliamentarians from across parties have also 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…

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