NICOSIA – Already siding with Russia against European Union sanctions for the invasion of Ukraine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan reportedly asked President Vladimir Putin to send direct commercial flights to the occupied side of Cyprus.
Turkey allows Russian airlines that are banned in the EU for now and the Turkish broadcaster NTV said Erdogan discussed the flights with Putin to bring critically-needed tourism monies for the occupied side’s economy.
“If direct flights start from Russia to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, we will of course be pleased,” NTV quoted Erdogan as saying. The rise in tourism would lead to a “serious leap regarding the economy,” he added.
Turkish media had reported the Turkish-Cypriot self-declared transport chief – no other country in the world apart from Turkey recognizes the occupied northern third of the island – as saying that two Russian airlines were interested in starting flights to the new Ercan Airport, which will be opened on Nov.15.
But the Russian Embassy in Nicosia refuted another report in Turkish newspaper Milliyet on direct flights from Russia to Ercan Airport.
“Russia’s position on the Cyprus settlement has not changed. Moscow is not conducting negotiations on the opening of direct flights between Russia and northern Cyprus,” an embassy spokesman told RIA Novosti.
Turkish-Cypriots have lived on the occupied side since two unlawful Turkish invasions in 1974 that were implicitly supported by the United States and Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong standing army there.
The legitimate Greek-Cypriot government is a member of the EU that Turkey has been trying fruitlessly to join since 2005, prospects worsening under Erdogan, who ignores EU laws and has had ships drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus.