Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus regarding the Operation of Ports and Airports in the Areas of the Republic of Cyprus under Turkish Military Occupation

  Under international law, every State has, as a matter of sovereignty, the indisputable right to determine which of its ports and airports are open and functioning, as well as to define the terms of operation and access for these ports and airports; there is no right for ships of one State to enter the ports of another, unless such a right is established by treaty.

  No State is obliged to open any of its airports to international traffic unless it has bound itself by treaty to do so. Every State has also the indisputable right to close certain ports and airports for reasons that it is alone competent to determine.

  The Republic of Cyprus, as the territorial sovereign, has every right to determine that the ports and airports in the areas under foreign occupation are closed due to military occupation; such a position is absolutely logical and self-evidently reasonable, having especially in mind that the Republic is not in a position to control and impose the terms of operation on these ports and airports, or to secure the discharge of its obligations under, international and EU law (especially those relevant to maintenance of navigational aids and other aspects of the safety of shipping, transboundary international crime, security, illegal immigration, narcotic drugs trafficking and terrorism).

  The ports in the occupied areas of Cyprus were closed by an Order of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cyprus, of 3 October 1974, which was communicated to the International Maritime Organisation on 12 December 1974 for distribution to its Member States.

  The ports having been closed by the Government, it is for the Government to determine whether, when, and on what conditions they shall be reopened. The sovereign Republic of Cyprus alone, and nobody else—any third party—has the right to decide that the ports in the areas under foreign occupation will operate again. The same applies to the airports, which were built in the occupied areas after 1974, and the functioning of which was never authorised by the Cyprus Government.

  A decision to open or reopen the port and airports in the northern part of Cyprus falls quite clearly within the category of public acts that can only properly be taken by the recognised government, ie, the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. The subordinate local administration established by Turkey in the occupied areas of Cyprus (European Court of Human Rights in its judgment in the Case of Loizidou v Turkey) has no right to take that decision. Thus, even though the "authorities" in the occupied areas of Cyprus operate ports and airports, all States are under a legal duty not to consider those ports and airports closed.

  Furthermore, the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the constitutive instrument of ICAO, to which 188 Countries including Cyprus, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are contracting States, affirms that every State has "complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory" (Article 1). The Government of the Republic of Cyprus, under the principle of "complete and exclusive sovereignty", has the right to decide whether to permit aircraft of other States to enter Cypriot airspace, and on what terms. This includes aircraft of any flag, and, of course, means the airspace of Cyprus as a whole.

  Consequently, air services to and from the northern part of Cyprus, if conducted without the approval of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, violate Article 1 of the Chicago Convention.


  It has been invoked, unfoundedly, that the ports of Taiwan, an unrecognised entity, operate and that this case could serve as a precedent. Any comparison between the two situations is completely inappropriate, since it concerns two absolutely different cases. Taiwan is effectively a "derecognised state" which exercises residual functions.

  However, in the case of "government" established as a result of the invasion of one State by another, as is the case of Cyprus, international law rules very clearly that such "government" and occupation must not be recognised. For the case of Cyprus, one should recall more particularly that the Security Council explicitly "calls upon all States not to recognise any Cypriot State other than the Republic of Cyprus", (resolution 541 (1983)), and "not to facilitate or in any way assist" the so-called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", (resolution 550 (1984)). No similar resolutions exist in the case of Taiwan.


  According to an established case law of the European Court of Justice, the European Union is bound to comply with mandatory obligations under general international law and with Security Council resolutions. Therefore, the obligation under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus, which includes the obligation to respect the right of the Cyprus Government to regulate access to its ports and airports, binds both the Member States and the institutions of the Union.

  Furthermore, this obligations strengthened by the existence of a specific duty of loyal cooperation between the Member States and the European Community enshrined in Article 10 of the EC Treaty. In that respect, the European Court of Justice held that the said duty "imposes on the Member States and the Community institutions mutual duties to cooperate in good faith", (Judgment of 16 October 2003, in Case C-339/00).

  Moreover, as has been recognised by the Legal Service of the EU Council (Opinion of the Legal Service of 25 August 2004, Doc. No 11278/04), the duty of loyal cooperation would be breached if the Member States or the institutions of the Union were to ignore the sovereign right of the Government of Cyprus to declare the closure or to authorise the opening of ports and airports situated in the occupied areas of Cyprus.

23 December 2004

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