Turkey defends denying Cypriot aircraft overflight clearance

Turkey has defended its decision to deny overflight clearance to a plane carrying medical aid to Greek Cyprus from China, Anadolu news agency said.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy said in a statement that, while flights through Turkish airspace are generally not granted to Greek Cypriot Administration (GCA) aircraft, humanitarian exceptions are made for planes transporting patients, evacuation flights, or medical supplies – if a timely application is submitted.

“The aircraft in question, which departed from [China], did not submit a timely overflight clearance request prior to its take-off and requested an overflight clearance with a declaration to land in Larnaca, only while approaching the Turkish airspace,” Akosy said.

“Under these circumstances, the aircraft was denied permission to enter Turkish airspace as per the standard restrictions regarding flights involving the GCA. In any event, a reasonable period of time to allow for any coordination of an exceptional permission was not accorded,” he said. 

Cyprus has been divided since Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup that sought unification with Greece.

The south of Cyprus, whose government is internationally recognised, is predominantly Greek. Sovereignty of the Turkish north of the island is only recognised by Ankara.

Tensions have been growing between Turkey and Greece and Greek Cyprus over recent weeks due to a dispute over gas exploration rights off the coast of Cyprus.