4th Mar 2024

Turkish ban on Cypriot-flagged ships stirs new trouble

  • Cyprus has been divided since 1974 (Photo: European Commission)

Turkey will not open its ports and airports to Cypriot-flagged ships and aircraft, the Turkish government has confirmed making an escalation of already tense relations between Ankara and the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government of the south of the island likely.

The move is also likely to spell trouble for Turkey's EU membership talks.

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The EU has repeatedly urged Turkey to lift its embargo on Cypriot-flagged vessels and aircraft as part of Turkey’s negotiations for membership of the EU. The ban has been in place since 1987.

In theory, Turkey's signature of the EU protocol extending a customs accord with the EU to the bloc's 10 new states - including Cyprus - should result in the embargo being lifted.

But Turkey's deputy prime minister Abdullatif Sener said over the weekend that Ankara would not make any unilateral moves to lift the embargo and open its ports, Reuters reported.

"If this is what the deputy prime minister has said, then they are on a collision course with the EU. It is only a matter of time," Cypriot foreign minister George Iacovou told the agency.

The Cypriot shipping fleet is the third largest in the EU and the ninth largest in the world.

In another blow to negotiations surrounding the Cypriot conflict the EU was forced last week to formally shelve plans to deliver millions of euro in aid to northern Cyprus, because of continuing resistance by the Greek Cypriot government, writes the Financial Times.

EU governments agreed in April 2004 to offer assistance to Turkish Cyprus and ease its international isolation by offering an aid-package worth €259 million as a first step, of which €120 million will no longer be available, according to the paper.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when a Greek-inspired coup prompted a Turkish invasion of the northern third of the island.

Since then, the Greek and Turkish Cypriots have been living separately, divided by a so-called "green line", controlled by the United Nations.

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in 1983, but has only been recognised by Turkey.


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