By Evie Andreou
THE arrival of Deep Purple on Friday in the north on a chartered aircraft with British Airways (BA) colours, has raised questions as to why a BA aircraft landed at Tymbou (Ercan) airport.
Since the breakaway regime in the north is recognised by no country other than Turkey, it is considered illegal to enter the island from a port not controlled by the Cyprus government.
The aircraft was apparently not operated by BA however, but by the Denmark-based SunAir which has a franchise agreement with BA since 1996 allowing it to fly with BA’s colours.
A statement from BA concerning the aircraft’s landing in Ercan said: “The aircraft is owned and operated by SunAir which is a British Airways franchise. This is a charter flight which is not operating on behalf of British Airways.”
The foreign ministry said on Saturday it would investigate whether the plane flew in directly from London since that would be illegal, and that they would also lodge a complaint with SunAir for landing in Tymbou.
Meanwhile, the Near East University (NEU) countered Greek Cypriot arguments as to why the band should not perform in the north. With the title ‘Answer to Greek Cypriots with an Ottoman style slap’ – Haber Kibris news portal said that the Near East University answered what it called Greek Cypriot’s ‘propaganda’ claims that Deep Purple would give a concert in lands stolen from Greek Cypriots, with an Ottoman Turkish title deed.
According to the article, they sent the band the Ottoman-era title deed proving the Turkish ownership of the land where the concert would take place.
Following the initial outcry over Deep Purple’s performance in the north, the band’s frontman, Ian Gillan, issued a statement in April defending its decision to perform in the north.
He said the group performed in many troubled regions and they had never been on one side or the other when it comes to performing music, and that the diplomatic and cultural side door was always open for art, entertainment and sport, no matter how frightening and confrontational all the rest of it was.
Despite the government’s attempt to stop the band from performing in the north three weeks ago by contacting Deep Purple’s agency, the concert took place on Saturday at Park Near East in the presence of 35,000 fans, among them Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu.
In April, Eroglu had invited president Nicos Anastasiades to join him in the concert as a confidence building measure.
According to the Turkish Cypriot press, which called the concert “historic and unforgettable”, also present were representatives from eight embassies among them Hungary, Germany, FYROM and Russia, and members of UN peacekeeping force UNFICYP, The papers said many Greek Cypriots also attended.
NEU’s President of the Board of Trustees, İrfan Günsel, gave the band as a gift, some traditional Lefkara embroideries. The concert was organised to celebrate the Near East University’s 25th anniversary.