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Media Watch 2003

20 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: George Psyllides
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 20 May 2003
Cyprus hails Turkish travel move

THE GOVERNMENT yesterday hailed Turkey’s lifting of the ban on Greek Cypriots visiting the country, but said it was nothing less than Turkey had to do to meet its international and especially EU obligations.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan announced on Saturday that Turkey would allow Greek Cypriots free access to visit the country, and that anyone travelling from Cyprus could go through the occupied north. Cypriots could, however, also fly via Greece to avoid travelling through an illegal port of entry.

“Starting May 22, Greek Cypriot citizens can enter Turkey without visas,” Erdogan said in a speech in Antalya. “Turkey’s doors are open to Greek Cypriots... for the first time in 40 years.”

Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said yesterday the announcement was “a step by Turkey to comply with international legality”.

“Each measure bringing Turkey back to international legality is good,” the spokesman said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement yesterday that Greek Cypriots visiting Turkey would be given automatic one-month tourist visas.

The visas would be available for free if obtained in advance at the Turkish chief consulate in Athens-Piraeus, the statement said. Greek Cypriots living outside Cyprus could obtain the visas at the relevant Turkish embassy. They could also be obtained at Turkish ports of entry at a cost of 10 euros.

Chrysostomides yesterday warned Greek Cypriots it would be illegal for them to get the visa from the Turkish embassy in occupied Nicosia - though the Turkish foreign ministry statement made no mention of the embassy, saying Greek Cypriots ought to pick up their visas in Athens or on arrival.

Chrysostomides added the move meant Ankara was indirectly recognising passports issued by the Republic of Cyprus.

Turkey is the only country that recognises the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state and does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, a position that complicates its EU accession bid with the Republic set to join the bloc next May.

Chrysostomides pointed out Cyprus had always allowed Turkish nationals on its territory.

“Erdogan’s declarations are the lifting of a restriction imposed by Turkey in the past, but there is a compliance with international legality,” Chrysostomides said.

He added: “It is not a measure hailed as a good will measure or a confidence-building measure.”

Chrysostomides warned Greek Cypriots they were not allowed to use illegal points of entry at ports or airports in the north.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said yesterday Greek Cypriot private yachts would be allowed to visit Turkish ports, but only if they sailed from ports in the occupied areas. Turkey also said at the weekend that Greek Cypriots would be free to travel direct to Turkey from the occupied area’s airport, instead of taking the round trip via Athens.

President Tassos Papadopoulos on Sunday said Erdogan’s declarations were an empty gesture of no significance. Papadopoulos said the move was designed to impress but was of no significance whatsoever.

Erdogan on Saturday appealed to Athens to reciprocate by allowing Turkish Cypriots unrestricted access to Greece. “Right now, we expect Greece to take the same steps for Turkish Cypriots,” Erdogan said.

Greece - like the rest of the world - does not recognise travel documents issued by the authorities in the north."