UK government slams petition to open flights to occupied northern Cyprus

Varosha, erdogan

"Authorise direct flights from the United Kingdom to North Cyprus (TRNC)."

This was the name of a petition put forward to the UK government and parliament by Hasan Ozkoc.

The UK government's petition website explains that any petition made that receives 10,000 signatures gets a response from the government and those that reach 100,000 signatures is usually debated in parliament.

"Our Government needs to support direct flights to Northern Cyprus. The UK has around 300,000 residents of Turkish Cypriot heritage. Direct flights should create more free flow travel and ease access for the disabled and vulnerable. In return offer British citizens their free choice of travel," Ozkoc wrote in his failed petition.

"The Government should listen to its citizens' concerns. A direct flight to Northern Cyprus has never been operational. Direct accessibility to Northern Cyprus should be granted. EU's embargo 1994 should now be lifted. If we have completed Brexit, we would like to see the UK authorise a direct flight from the UK to Northern Cyprus without the EU's interference. Direct flights should boost tourism as this direct flight has never been in effect," his petition concluded.

Ozkoc attempted to frame the reason why there are no flights from the UK to occupied northern Cyprus as being because of EU interference, whilst ignoring that United Nations Security Council Resolution 541 and UN Security Council Resolution 550 deem the occupation of Northern Cyprus illegal while also emphasising that the Republic of Cyprus is the sole authority on the island.

After receiving 12,665 signatures, the UK government made a decisive response to the petition on September 21.

"The UK Government has no plans to authorise direct flights between the UK and the north of Cyprus. In accordance with the rest of the international community, the UK does not recognise the self-declared ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ as an independent state. The United Kingdom recognises the Republic of Cyprus as the sovereign authority for the island of Cyprus. As a result, the UK Government cannot negotiate an Air Services Agreement with the administration in the north of Cyprus," the UK government said in response.

"The Republic of Cyprus has not designated any airport in the northern part of Cyprus with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO); as such, no airports in that part of Cyprus are listed by ICAO as open for international traffic," the response continued.

The UK government then referenced a court ruling that highlighted direct flights to occupied northern Cyprus would be in breach of the UK's "international legal obligations."

"The UK High Court also ruled in 2009 (Kibris Türk Hava Yollari v Secretary of State for Transport) that allowing direct flights to Ercan airport in the north of Cyprus would breach our international legal obligations. This is because it would fail to respect the Republic of Cyprus’ rights under the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, including to choose which airports to designate as customs airports. This ruling was endorsed by the Court of Appeal in 2010," the response said.

"In light of the above, it would be unlawful for the Government to authorise direct flights to the northern part of Cyprus," the statement concluded.