A Conservative politician has kept his word to Turkish Cypriots by arranging a face-to-face meeting with the British Transport Minister to discuss UK-imposed security measures that has forced air passengers flying between Britain and North Cyprus off planes in Turkey since the new rule came into effect on June 1st this year.
Chingford MP Iain Duncan Smith had promised to help resolve the ‘Pegasus embargo’ issue at the Turkish Cypriot Cultural Festival that was attended by over 20,000 people in June. The former Tory Party leader facilitating a meeting between Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Transport and representatives of the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations in Britain (CTCA UK) and the Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce (KTTO).
Those present at the 11 Oct. meeting were Fikri Toros, President of the internationally recognised North Cyprus business body KTTO, the current and former CTCA UK chairs Leyla Kemal and Cetin Ramadan, and Ersu Ekrem and Olgun Sadik of the British Turkish Cypriot Association (BTCA), a member organisation of CTCA UK which has been at the forefront of campaigning on this issue.
All parties agreed to remain tight-lipped about the meeting. However a statement issued by the Turkish Cypriot delegation afterwards stated:
“All key issues were explained [to the Minister] and it was agreed that further investigative work is required in order to try and find a resolution to the matter which was re-confirmed as “security related” only. The Turkish Cypriot NGOs named above have lent their unreserved collaborative support in order to expedite matters with the Ministry of Transport and all other relevant authorities.”
During the meeting, Minister Grayling informed the party that the UK’s travel restrictions were only applicable to flights from North Cyprus to the UK. However, Zeki Ziya, a director of XP Travel and who also heads Pegasus Airlines’ North Cyprus operations, has previously stated that security arrangements for airlines need to be identical on both legs of the journey. As a result, although the UK only insists on its transit rule being applied to outbound journeys from the TRNC, airports in Turkey are obliged to implement the same security measures on inbound journeys too.
Since declaring independence in November 1983, the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus has remained politically unrecognised at the insistence of Greek Cypriots. As a result, the TRNC’s airports are not recognised by International Civil Aviation Organisation, which regulates international aviation. All air travel to and from the TRNC must touch-down in Turkey first.
Previously, passengers could remain on the aircraft, minimising inconvenience to passengers. Since the UK-imposed transit rule came into force, all passengers must disembark with their luggage, go through a security check in Turkey and board a new aircraft for their final destination.
Pegasus was the last Turkish airline to comply with the British authorities’ new security rules for flights from Ercan Airport. The new rules were met by fury from the UK’s Turkish Cypriot community and British expats living in North Cyprus, who view the government’s decision as politically-motivated.
Main photo above (L-R): Olgun Sadik, Cetin Ramadan, Fikri Toros, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith, Ersu Ekrem, Kay Halibi, Leyla Kemal