DO NOT FLY TO SOUTH CYPRUS
Taken from this week's issue
TRNC-bound British citizens are being warned not to travel via South Cyprus following unconfirmed reports that the Greek Cypriot side will continue to impose restrictions on non-EU nationals crossing the border when Covid-19 measures are lifted.
It was also claimed that there could be difficulties for people from non-EU states trying to cross to North Cyprus via the checkpoints with the UK’s Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs).
Speaking to Cyprus Today, Foreign Minister Tahsin Ertuğruloğlu said he was “vehemently protesting” against the matter and was due to have a meeting with British High Commissioner Stephen Lillie in the coming weeks following claims that restrictions on non-EU nationals would be imposed from April 1 at the British-run checkpoints on the line between the TRNC and the Dhekelia base. Checkpoints on other parts of the “Green Line” are closed at present.
Mr Ertuğruloğlu said that the Greek Cypriot side was “continuing to create problems for tourists who wish to fly into the South and cross to the North”.
“We have made representations to the UK authorities and to the United Nations Peacekeeping force protesting this unacceptable situation,” he said. “There are plans to instigate these restrictions as of April 1.
“I strongly advise, as I have always done, our British residents and tourists not to use the South’s airports, at the risk of not being able to cross to the North.”
A British High Commission spokesman told this newspaper that the prevention of non-EU nationals travelling to the TRNC “is a question for the authorities in [South] Nicosia”.
The spokesperson added: “All the crossing points are closed to non-Cypriots at the moment, on both sides. We have, through support for [United Nations Security Council Resolution] 2561 urged both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders to reopen the crossing points as soon as practically possible.”
Cyprus Today understands that the UK will continue to implement the Green Line Regulation at the crossing points with the SBAs. The Green Line Regulation was revised through the SBA Protocol to the Withdrawal Agreement made between the EU and the UK, and makes clear the difference in treatment between EU, UK and “third country” nationals at the crossing points.
Sources have also told Cyprus Today “that it is not correct that UK nationals will be treated the same as all other Turkish Cypriot nationals at the SBA crossing points” and that “they will be treated differently as set out in the protocol”.
The UK’s official travel advice makes clear that, following Brexit and the end of the transitional period, British nationals may now be treated differently by the Greek Cypriot administration, including new immigration requirements.
However UK nationals will not require a visa to visit South Cyprus for trips of 90 days or less.
British Residents Society chairman Peter Wilkins said he had had a “suspicion that there will be issues”.
“We are waiting to speak to the British High Commission to clarify what is happening following social media reports and widespread speculation that the Greek Cypriot side will not allow Brits and other non-EU nationals to cross into the North when the borders are opened and flights resume,” he said.
“What we are hearing, however, is completely unacceptable. Needless to say, we call on everyone wishing to come to North Cyprus to fly into the North and not risk being stranded in the South, until this situation is sorted out.
“We can only at this point call on President Ersin Tatar to follow up his dialogue with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab so that this disembarkation during the touch-down in Turkey for flights between North Cyprus and the UK is stopped, so that people can just remain on the aircraft.”
Cyprus Turkish Travel Agents’ Union head Orhan Tolun said that Greek Cypriots’ insistence to enforce the restrictions would hurt the TRNC’s economy.
“We certainly do not advise travelling via the South at this time,” he said. “Any hindrance by Greek Cypriot or British checkpoint officials is going to have a knock-on effect if people cannot freely pass to the North and vice-versa. This is aimed at dealing a blow to our tourism. We don’t know when the crossings will open either.”
British Turkish Cypriot Association (BTCA) executive member Çetin Ramadan said he was “outraged” following the reports that there could be new restrictions imposed by the SBA authorities on non-EU nationals and Brits heading North.
“As the BTCA, we held many meetings at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London and raised the issue two years ago,” he said.
“This will have a direct impact on the 10,000 British nationals in the North, and 300,000 Turkish Cypriots living in the UK and thousands more in other parts of the world.
“We informed them of our concerns that the Greek Cypriot side would cause problems for British nationals, after they had created similar problems for Israeli and other non-EU nationals crossing to the North.
“The only response we got was that they were involved in talks with the EU and the Greek Cypriot side. Are we now to believe that the whole issue was swept under the carpet?
“This is aimed at dealing a blow to our economy and tourism and shows the true intention of the Greek Cypriot side at a time when there are plans for a five-plus-UN informal meeting [on a Cyprus solution].”
Speaking during an online webinar event, Sir Iain Duncan Smith condemned the move of the Greek Cypriots, saying: “Any action like this is a retrograde step. . . I would stop this at once, because it is not going to help. . . shutting a border like that does not build confidence.”
Former Foreign Minister Kudret Özersay slammed the Greek Cypriot side for preventing tourists from crossing.
“What sort of a partnership are we going to form with Greek Cypriots who are trying to strangle us?” he said.
“The Greek Cypriot side should not be allowed to affect our economy. They are going to stop British and Russian tourists from being able to cross into the North when they fly into Larnaca. . .they have told such people that if they intend to visit the North, they will be deported.
“When this happened [before], I contacted the ambassadors of these countries stating that their own citizens were being treated in such a low way.”
He added that the Green Line Regulation “can only be changed in Brussels because it is an EU regulation”.
“So the Greek Cypriot side is trying to make practical changes without touching the regulation itself, by restricting third-country nationals. The Greek Cypriots are claiming that the changes are related to the Covid-19 pandemic.”