Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the north on Thursday to partake in celebrations linked to Turkey’s July 1974 invasion, and to officially open the new Ercan (Tymbou) airport terminal.

The trip represents the fourth and final stage of Erdogan’s tour of the Middle East, with him having already visited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates this week.

The inbound flight itself reportedly caused controversy in the Republic, as Erdogan flew directly from Abu Dhabi to the north.

Cyprus News Agency sources claim that the submitted flight path foresaw that Erdogan’s plane would land in Ankara and not in Cyprus after taking off from Abu Dhabi.

Erdogan arrived at around 1:30pm and was greeted at the new airport by Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar and Turkish ‘ambassador’ to the north Metin Feyzioglu, with other Turkish Cypriot dignitaries including ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel and former Turkish Cypriot leader Dervish Eroglu also in attendance to witness his arrival.

Following his arrival, an opening ceremony was held at the new terminal. Erdogan said the airport has an annual capacity of ten million passengers, making it the largest on the island of Cyprus.

He said he hopes the completion of the airport’s construction will “serve the stability of the TRNC and the region” before expressing his wish that the airport serve international flights.

“I invite the international community to heed the call of then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who admitted there is no UN resolution that could justify the isolation of our Turkish Cypriot brothers, and I invite them to lift these restrictions.” he said.

Tatar also spoke at the ceremony, calling on the international community to allow direct flights to the new airport. He singled out the United Kingdom, where there is a sizeable Turkish Cypriot community, as an example, and said that freedom of travel is a human right.

Speaking about the new terminal, Tatar said “the south hasn’t got an airport like this, and neither do most countries.”

The new airport cost a total of €450 million. It has a 3,100m runway, making it the longest commercial runway in Cyprus at 100m longer than that of Larnaca. There is parking capacity for 30 aircraft, nine of which are jet bridges, 60 check-in desks, and 44 passport control desks.

With the new airport now inaugurated, the last flight into the old terminal is due to land at 6.45pm from Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport, before the first flight out of the new terminal is due to take off on Friday morning at 7.40 for Adana.

Erdogan is later expected to attend a ceremony at Nicosia’s Ataturk monument in the north and the annual military parade on Dr Fazil Kucuk boulevard.

The Turkish leader and Tatar later held a one-on-one meeting, discussing regional geopolitical issues as well as ongoing court case regarding the Cypriot children who died when the Isias hotel in the Turkish city of Adiyaman collapsed following February’s earthquakes.

Later in the day it was reported the two men signed two agreements during a meeting at the Concorde hotel in northern Nicosia.

The first agreement relates to the provision of consular services to citizens of the Republic of Turkey living in the north, the second was a memorandum of understand on the support provided by Turkey to the establishment of a centre combating irregular migration in the ‘TRNC’.

Also on Thursday, a monument was unveiled in the north at the Pente Mili (Five Miles) beach of Kyrenia. The monument depicts an AB-205 helicopter, taking part in the landing of Turkish troops there during the operation on July 20, 1974.

In remarks at the unveiling ceremony, held on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of the invasion – which Turkey calls a ‘peacekeeping operation’ – Tatar said they were marking “the freedom, peace and calm in Cyprus” as a result of the Turkish intervention.