October 12, 2010 / 1:02 PM / 10 years ago

UK court rejects challenge to North Cyprus flight ban

LONDON (Reuters) - A Turkish airline lost an appeal Tuesday against a British court’s decision to maintain a longstanding ban on direct flights from Britain to north Cyprus.

The Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the north in 1974 to foil a coup that sought to unite the island with Greece.

All flights in and out of the Turkish Cypriot north must first go through Turkey, the only country that recognizes the north as a separate state.

Cyprus Turkish Airlines went to the Court of Appeal in London to challenge an earlier court ruling that upheld Britain’s ban on direct flights, the Press Association said.

The airline and its UK travel company, CTA Holidays, said the ban unfairly restricted Turkish Cypriots from travelling and doing business around the world.

The airline, which carries 100,000 visitors from Britain to the north of Cyprus each year, said the restrictions increase flight times, ticket prices and greenhouse gas emissions.

But three appeal court judges upheld the earlier ruling, saying that granting permits would contravene the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.

It would also breach Britain’s duty to respect the rights of the Republic of Cyprus, the judges added. The court ordered the airline and holiday company to pay the British and Cypriot governments’ legal costs. The final bill is still be worked out.

The airline’s lawyers had argued that allowing direct flights between British airports and northern Cyprus would have “huge, symbolic importance” for the divided island.

Greek Cypriots living in the south run an internationally recognized government which represents the whole island in the European Union. Turkish Cypriots in the north rung a breakaway state recognized only by Ankara.

The former British colony became an independent state in 1960 and its territory comprised the whole of the island of Cyprus, apart from two British military bases. (Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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