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Media Watch 2005

09 April 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 9 April 2005.
Turkey welcome’s Straw comments on trade and direct flights
"TURKEY has welcomed comments by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw earlier this week calling for direct trade and flights to the north... he said, adding that the British government has no intention of contravening international law."

TURKEY has welcomed comments by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw earlier this week calling for direct trade and flights to the north and urging EU approval of the financial aid package for Turkish Cypriots at the same time.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Namik Tan was quoted as saying that Straw’s comments “reflected a comprehensive approach to the Cyprus question”.

Straw, in a 12-page written response to the recent report on Cyprus by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said combining the proposed aid and trade package was necessary to help end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.

“We continue to believe that the aid regulation should be treated as a package in conjunction with the Commission’s proposed draft regulation to facilitate direct trade between the EU and the north of Cyprus,” the Foreign Secretary said.

“We believe these regulations are complementary and need to be considered together if they are to fulfill the mandate EU Ministers gave to the Commission in April 2004 on ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.”

Straw said the consequences of failure to agree on the Commission’s proposals would be to consign the Turkish Cypriots to continuing economic isolation and to place pro-solution Turkish Cypriot politicians “under possibly unbearable strain”.

“We also agree with the observation that direct trade and contact with the rest of Europe will provide Turkish Cypriots with additional incentives to seek an overall solution to the Cyprus problem. It would also help narrow the economic gap between north and south,” he said.

“We believe that the absence of direct trade poses a greater threat to the reunification of Cyprus but we acknowledge that Greek Cypriot fears are genuinely felt and we will continue to try and reach a common understanding with the Cyprus government on the balance and risk in this area.”

Concerning direct flights to the north, Straw said Britain would in principle “support the commencement of direct flights to northern Cyprus”.

He said the simplest way would be for the Cyprus government to designate Tymbou (Ercan) as an international airport. If not the matter becomes complex, he said, adding that the British government has no intention of contravening international law.

“Our key consideration is therefore to examine the circumstances under which the licensing decisions could be taken in line with the UK obligations,” Straw said.

As far as an overall Cyprus solution was concerned, The British Foreign Secretary said the his government should not propose any particular changes to the Annan plan as that was a matter between the two sides on the island.

He said however that Britain would expect Turkey to contribute substantial financial assistance for some time following a settlement.

Straw also said it would probably not be helpful to fix any timetables or rush to try and find a settlement before October 3, the date Turkey has been given to start accession negotiations with the EU."