GİRNE – While negotiations between Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders aimed at reunifying the island are ongoing, a joint airport services organization has become operational, with hopes economic cooperation will spread to the political sphere.
The Cyprus Airport Services, or CAS, a joint organization of Turkish Cypriot Airlines and Turkey’s airport ground services, Havaş, in which both groups have a 50 percent share, was promoted at a special reception in Girne on Tuesday. The company aims to transform the quality of the island’s airport ground services and provide better services for growing tourist numbers.
“Our goal is to expand our operations to the whole island if the isolation of the north is lifted,” Pilot and general manager of Turkish Cypriot Airlines, or KTHY, Ahmet Akpınar, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on the sidelines of the reception. He also said, however, their objectives were not dependent on political processes.
Tourism eliminates concerns
Air transportation is a delicate issue for Turkish Cyprus, as it is a country only recognized by Turkey and all Turkish Cypriot airplanes have to land in Turkey before flying anywhere else.
Akpınar said the most important issue to be addressed concerning the country’s isolation was the flight ban. “While a flight from Europe to Greek Cyprus takes three hours, the same flight takes more than five hours to the north as it has to go via Turkey.” he said.
The general director of Havaş, Müjdat Yücel, said that while the north would definitely be affected by the economic crisis, its tourism potential had eliminated all of their concerns. “The number of tourists visiting northern Cyprus rose from 1.2 million in 2005 to 2 million this year.
Moreover, the fact there are no alternatives to air transportation in Cyprus make this project necessary,” he said. While acknowledging the positive effect the resumption of negotiations in September had on accelerating the project, Yücel said the increase in air traffic, after the positive response by an overwhelming majority of Turkish Cypriots to the Annan Plan in 2004, had also been a major factor.
CAS, an investment of $1.5 million, is the first cooperation between Havaş and a foreign company. Yücel said new cooperative projects with Tunisia, Macedonia and Letonia would follow Cyprus.