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Charlie’s Soap Box: Cyprus is crazy to play politics with tourists


By Charlie Charalambous

Cyprus generally likes to present itself as a shiny happy place that welcomes visitors to its sunny shores. Here on the Island of Loooove we like nothing more than wine, women and song.

But we also assume that everyone who comes here for a holiday is savvy with the island’s political mess of a problem.

Nicosia is the world’s last divided capital where the wall of Cold War machinations has stubbornly failed to come a tumbling down.

Most Cypriots pay lip service to a bicommunal federation of neighbourly devotion but when it comes to the fine print the Turkish Intransigence clause kicks-in and high hopes turn to dust followed by an aftershock of recriminations.

Cypriots want to believe in a solution but they are scarred by the past and politicians picking at their wounds. As it stands today Cyprus is a popular tourist hot spot that has a 180-kilometre ceasefire line scratched across its landscape – a line it doesn’t want visitors to cross.

Earlier this week there was chaos at Larnaca airport after immigration decided that tourists from Israel, Serbia and Lebanon should be sent back home as they had booked hotel stays in the north.

A popular Lebanese DJ and his wife got the chop because he chirpily mentioned he might go north while staying with a Greek Cypriot host in Nicosia.

The group of Israelis kicked up a fuss and the authorities didn’t want a diplomatic incident with Tel-Aviv so they were grudgingly let through. The others had the door shut in their face.

Apparently this all came about because of a bright spark at the Foreign Ministry. He issued a circular that non-EU citizens booking a holiday in the north – and in all probability staying in property usurped from Greek Cypriots – must be banned from entry.

This is not only racist in concept – because if it is illegal for non-EU visitors to go north then it is illegal for everybody else – but shifts the blame for our inability to resolve the problem on foreigners. If the authorities allow

Turkish Cypriot taxis or coaches to pick up tourist from Larnaca airport then why impose such a ban.

Why is it okay for Greek Cypriots to go north and gamble at casinos or fly out from Tymbou airport when a Serbian, Israeli or Lebanese can’t? Either let nobody cross – shut up shop for good – or accept the situation as the best of a bad deal.

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