Turkey must open its ports to Cyprus-flagged vessels, say UK ministers

Turkey must open its ports to Cyprus-flagged vessels, say UK ministers

Two UK government ministers have called for Turkey to lift its ban on Cyprus-flagged vessels or those with Cypriot connections from calling at Turkish ports.

“As part of its EU accession process, Turkey is obligated under the Ankara Protocol to open its ports to Cypriot vessels – something it has yet to do,” wrote Phillip Hammond, UK secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, and David Lidington, the UK Foreign Office’s Europe minister, in a letter addressed to north London Conservative MPs.

“The UK continues to urge Turkey to meet all the conditions for its accession including on this issue, and will continue to do so,” the letter continued, according to Cyprus News Agency reports.

An end to Turkish port restrictions would be of economic benefit to both countries, said the ministers, both of whom have a close relationship with Turkey.

“Ultimately, the best way to solve this issue is to ensure a reunited Cyprus through a just and lasting solution. The UK continues to strongly support the UN process and the efforts of the two communities for this purpose,” the MPs wrote in the letter.

George Mouskas, the president of the Cyprus Union of Shipowners (CUS), raised the issue during a meeting at the UK Foreign Office, and enquired into the UK’s position on the problem, the CNA reports.

In his capacity as the president of the CUS, Mouskas had previously written a letter to Hammond in which he explained the need for Turkey to fulfill ‘certain minimum responsibilities to the EU’, one of which is the lifting of the embargo on Cypriot ships and ultimately recognising the Republic of Cyprus.

The CUS is of the opinion that Turkey’s EU membership would be have generally positive economic effects and would benefit world trade, Mouskas said in the letter.

“However, if it is to happen, then Turkey must fulfill its obligations and to lift the embargo on vessels flying the Cypriot flag in order to have truly free trade within Europe,” Mouskas said in his letter.

Turkey’s restrictive measures were originally introduced in April 1987 and prohibited Cyprus-flagged vessels from calling at Turkish ports.

In May 1997, Turkey extended these restrictions to prevent vessels sailing under any foreign flag from sailing to Turkish ports directly from any Cypriot port under the control of the Republic of Cyprus (such as Limassol and Larnaca), which has restricted the use of these ports for transshipment.

The 1997 amendment also bans any vessel related to the Republic of Cyprus in terms of ownership or ship management from calling in Turkey.

Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.

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