Following the debacle created by the South Cyprus Education Ministry using a Turkish airline company to transport a team of students to Trabzon, Education Minister Costas Kadis said that there had been no other option.
The event hit the media, after the South’s Foreign Ministry warned the Education Ministry against using any airline which lands at Ercan Airport.
The students were flown from Istanbul to Trabzon to attend the World School Games in July, by Pegasus, one of several airlines companies which also uses Ercan.
In his defence, Kadis told Greek Cypriot state broadcaster CyBC on Wednesday, that the only other option would have been a 15-hour drive.
“The two airlines flying to this particular destination are essentially those offering flights to the illegal airport,” Kadis said, referring to Pegasus and the state-owned Turkish Airlines.
“How would they have got there? Should they have travelled by car for 15 hours?”
However, the South’s Foreign Office is continuing to launch an enquiry into the affair, despite the fact that they had been told about the travel arrangements.
Education ministry permanent undersecretary Egli Pantelaki said:
“We received three tenders for this trip – two from Turkish Airlines, and the third from Pegasus”.
“The trip was organised by the two ministries’ bureaucrats, and information was shared verbally. The Foreign ministry was aware of this situation. They knew [the students] were going to Turkey. We were never advised to avoid using these companies. I don’t know what this belated reaction serves to achieve, and especially the fact that it was leaked to the media.”
Opposition parties attacked the government over the issue for the second day in a row.
“This unacceptable, damaging, and inexplicable decision by the Education Ministry was made after the Foreign Ministry had prepared measures calling for administrative sanctions against companies and passengers using the illegal airport at occupied Tymbou, [Ercan]” DIKO said in a statement.
“We call on the government to try to achieve a rudimentary level of coordination among its ranks, at least so that further decisions that hurt the Republic of Cyprus and its economy can be averted.”
In a statement, far-right wing ELAM lambasted the government’s decision to even allow the students to attend the event in Turkey.
“The best message would have been to send a letter to all the participating countries, informing them of what Turkey has done, and continues to do, to our country,” the party said.