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Turkey says plane did not request airspace clearance in time

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos at Larnaca airport after the plane finally arrived via Moscow on Wednesday night

The aircraft carrying medical supplies to Cyprus from China this week was not allowed to fly through the Turkish airspace because it did not request permission in time, Turkey’s foreign ministry has said.

The Turkish ministry’s spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, also said that the Greek Cypriot side knows the procedure that needs to be followed and accused it of exploiting this incident for political reasons.

Aksoy said in a written statement on Thursday that Ankara’s policy “regarding the Greek Cypriot Administration (GCA)” is that no permission is granted for overflights through Turkish airspace on Republic of Cyprus-registered aircraft or transport cargo to and from the government-controlled side of the island.

“Overflight clearances are granted however, should an application be submitted, for ambulance aircraft with patients on board, evacuation flights and aircraft carrying medical supplies, as an exception with humanitarian considerations,” he said.

He added that aircraft requesting permission for technical or emergency landing are also included among exceptions, irrelevant of their registration.

As regards reports that an aircraft transporting medical supplies from China to Cyprus, was denied overflight clearance on Wednesday, Aksoy said that the plane did not submit a overflight clearance request prior to its take-off with a declaration to land in Larnaca, but only did so while approaching the Turkish airspace.

“Under these circumstances, the aircraft was denied permission to enter the Turkish airspace as per the standard restrictions regarding flights involving the GCA,” he said. “In any event, a reasonable period of time to allow for any coordination of an exceptional permission was not accorded.”

Had an application for the overflight permission of the flight in question been submitted in a timely manner, it could have been possible to grant an exception on humanitarian grounds.

He said clearance for such flights had been granted before.

Aksoy said the Greek Cypriot side had exploited the issue “for political agenda, contrary to the interests of its own people”.

The European Commission’s spokesman Peter Stano on Thursday had called on Turkey to maintain a spirit of solidarity without discrimination.

The plane with 36 tonnes of medical supplies from China arrived late Wednesday night after being forced to change course and head to Moscow for refuelling when permission to fly through Turkish airspace was denied. The aircraft was chartered by the government to bring the equipment from China.


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