Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inauguration of a new terminal at Ercan Airport in occupied northern Cyprus raises concerns of international law. The Republic of Cyprus already disputes the legality of the airport, citing sovereignty violations and property rights issues.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inaugurated a new terminal at Ercan Airport, located in the occupied territories of northern Cyprus on Thursday. The new terminal at the controversial airport, already considered illegal by the Republic of Cyprus, has prompted concerns of international law and heightened discussions about sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The inauguration took place on 20 July, the 49th anniversary of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, further exacerbating the sensitivity of the situation. In his address at the opening ceremony, President Erdoğan hinted at the possibility of international flights being operated from the airport in the near future, demonstrating his intention to push for international recognition for the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus, as the internationally recognised authority on the island, has declared Ercan Airport to be an illegal entry and exit point since 1974. The construction and the running of the airport have been contested throughout that time, particularly by Greek Cypriot refugees who were forcibly expelled from their properties during the invasion.
Under international law, the Republic of Cyprus maintains exclusive jurisdiction to determine which airports are open and operating, as well as the terms of their operation, on its territory.
The airport’s existence is not recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), which adheres to the United Nations’ stance on Cyprus-related matters. ICAO recognises only the Republic of Cyprus and its government as the legitimate representative of the entire island. As a result, any potential international use of the Ercan Airport would be a violation of ICAO decisions and international conventions and resolutions.
The controversy surrounding the Ercan Airport also touches upon human rights issues, with European Court of Human Rights cases highlighting the rights of Greek Cypriot refugees who remain legal owners of the properties on which the airport stands.