By Stefanos Evripidou
THE FOREIGN Ministry yesterday effectively called on citizens not to travel to Turkey following the implementation of a new electronic visa system by Turkey which ignores the existence of the Cyprus Republic, an EU member state.
The new system obliges Cypriot passport holders to state that they are from the “Greek Cypriot Administration in Southern Cyprus” as there is no option to select the Cyprus Republic.
Another, at best unintended, anomaly in the system which could technically ban Cypriot passport holders from entering Turkey at all is a further rule that electronic visas issued will be invalid if the stated country of origin does not match the passport used to travel.
If Cypriots are carrying Cyprus Republic passports but register the issuing country as the ‘Greek Cypriot Administration in Southern Cyprus’, there is a clear inconsistency which theoretically bans a small section of EU passport holders from entering an EU candidate country.
The move comes at a time when peace talks are underway, and a great deal of international focus is on clinching confidence-building measures that would improve the climate between the two communities while building trust between Greek Cypriots and Turkey.
As of April 11, 2014, Turkey has implemented a new procedure for issuing entry visas to the country for tourism or business purposes.
Under the new system, tourism or business travellers to the country are no longer meant to purchase a visa on arrival at the airport, as Cypriots were able to do in the past. They are now required to fill an application form via Turkey’s new Electronic Visa Application System (www.evisa.gov.tr).
According to the Turkish foreign ministry website, the old system came to an end on April 11, 2014, though border authorities will maintain existing procedures for an unspecified transitional period which includes the 2014 tourism season.
Visitors arriving to Turkey without electronic visas will be able to obtain their e-visas via interactive kiosks placed in Turkish airports.
Turkey’s foreign ministry says the new system, introduced in 2013, allows intending visitors to obtain their e-visas in approximately three minutes online.
The Turkish ministry states that the goal is to eliminate waiting periods at Turkish airports.
However, the new online system leaves no option for a citizen of the Cyprus Republic to obtain a visa which corresponds with the country that has issued their passport.
Following a report on the issue by Phileleftheros yesterday, the Cyprus foreign ministry issued a statement noting that on the e-visa website, the list of countries from which citizens may apply for an entry visa does not include the Cyprus Republic.
“Instead, to allow entry into Turkey, Cyprus Republic passport holders are required by the electronic system to choose as their national state an internationally non-existent entity, ie, the ‘Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus’.
“The Foreign Ministry encourages passport holders of the Cyprus Republic not to apply for an entry visa under the above conditions,” said the statement.
Since the above conditions are almost certainly likely to apply at the interactive kiosks set up at Turkish airports for the stated transitional period, the Cypriot ministry is effectively telling its citizens not to travel to Turkey.
A quick look at the Turkish government website reveals that Cypriots have two choices when applying for an electronic visa: either they can state they are passport holders of the ‘Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus’, or the, ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’.
The latter inclusion is somewhat bizarre and unnecessary since passport holders of the breakaway regime are exempt from entry visas to Turkey and so do not need to even use the website.
Interestingly though, the Turkish e-visa website contains an ‘Information Note’, stating clearly: “If the country of travel document registered on the e-visa is different than the passport carried; the e-Visa will be invalid.”
In other words, possibly unwittingly, Turkey has effectively banned Greek Cypriots or anyone holding a Cyprus Republic passport from entering, unless it’s willing to turn a blind eye to its own rules.
In any case, Cyprus passport holders wishing to travel to Turkey can obtain an online visa for $20 or purchase one during the transitional period on arrival using the interactive kiosks, and pay a higher fee of $30.
Citizens’ Alliance leader Giorgos Lillikas yesterday accused Turkey of attempting to upgrade the pseudo-state and downgrade the Cyprus Republic, while at the same time earning plaudits from the international community for its efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.
He called on citizens not to play Turkey’s game and not to renounce the Cyprus Republic so as to travel to Turkey.