Discussion to make Turkish Cypriot airport 'domestic' draws ire on breakaway island

As parliamentary elections near in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the issue of whether Ercan Airport should become a “domestic” Turkish line has come to the fore. Opposition figures say the move would make TRNC a “province” of Turkey.

This file photo shows Ercan Airport in Turkish Cyprus.

Nikolaos Stelya / DUVAR

As parliamentary elections near in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), the debate has centered around an unlikely subject: the airport.

Amid reports that TRNC Prime Minister Faiz Sucuoğlu discussed with Binali Yıldırım, a lawmaker of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), making the breakaway island a “domestic” destination, Turkish Cypriots say this would make the Republic into a province of Turkey.

After pro-Turkish government Prime Minister Sucuoğlu’s visit to Ankara last week, he stated that flights to Ercan Airport in Northern Cyprus may be re-priced as “domestic.” This drew harsh reactions, especially from the Cypriot left, who argue that this opens the way for “integration into Turkey.” Republican Turkish Party (CTP) member Doğuş Derya further stated that this would turn Ercan into a “provincial airport.”

“We founded the state, we are sovereign and equal,” she wrote on social media.

Former Minister of Transport for the TRNC, Tolga Atakan, stated that the idea was impossible. Former TRNC President Mustafa Akıncı condemned the idea of aligning more closely with an administration that increasingly alienates itself from Europe. Because of its proximity to the continent and to the Greek side of Cyprus, TRNC is tied closely to the Euro and the European Union.

“Are we going to celebrate that an administration that is rapidly approaching the point of complete exclusion from European institutions will make Ercan a domestic line, taking one more step in making us a province?” Akıncı asked.

The issue of Ercan Airport has long been up for debate in Turkish Cyprus. While some believe the airport ought to be made “domestic” in order to reduce prices, others believe that doing so would make the independent Republic dependent on or subservient to Turkey.