The Cyprus government informed Israel that, for the first time in 15 years it would not attend the International Mediterranean Tourism Market (IMTM) which opened in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, after organizers agreed to allow the participation of a delegation from Turkish-ruled Northern Cyprus.
However, on Wednesday morning representatives of several Cypriot companies arrived at the fair and set up their booths as in previous years, though this time without any official government sponsoring.
Cyprus: Incident could hurt relations
Earlier this week Lior Gelfand, one of the fair’s organizers told Ynet that the Israeli hosts were aware that the participation of the north Cypriots could be potentially sensitive and demanded that the company, listed as North Cyprus Tourism Center, refrain from displaying symbols of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus on its promotional material.
However, once Cyprus learned of the northern Cypriot company’s plan to attend the exposition, it decided to withdraw from the event in response. A letter sent to the Israeli Foreign Ministry by the Cyprus Israel Friendship Association warned that the incident could significantly jeopardize the relations between the two countries.
Gelfand said he was surprised by Cyprus’ decision. “In other tourism fairs, such as ITB in Berlin and WTM in London, there are regularly representatives from both countries and the Cypriots have no dispute with the organizers.
“Sadly here a commercial platform has been turn into a political one,” he added.
According to Gelfand, the cooperation with Cyprus in the event wass usually excellent. “The Cypriots have been attending the fair for 15 years, and they do wonderful things every year. They are literally one of the event’s focal points.”
The Island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974 into two political entities, which have been embroiled in a decades-long dispute: The internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, which is ruled by Greek Cypriots, and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
Relations between Israel and Cyprus have been strained lately, after several ships carrying aid for the Gaza Strip have left Cyprus despite Israel’s objection.