US Senator: TSA officials' visit to occupied north raises concern
Washington, Dec 2 (CNA) – Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has underlined that an inspection by officials from the US Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at illegal airports in the Turkish occupied north of Cyprus ''raises troubling issues related to international civil aviation and US foreign policy''.
In a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Thomas Ridge, US Homeland Security Secretary, dated 29 November, Snowe stresses that as a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation, it came to her attention that in late October, two officials from the TSA ''conducted an inspection of the airport at Tymbou, Cyprus, which is located in the area of Cyprus presently under illegal occupation by Turkish troops''.
''This action apparently comes in the wake of other US measures related to possible flights into the Tymbou airport and the airport of Lefkoniko, also in the occupied territory'', she said, adding that the US administration has contacted the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) about access to these illegally operated airports, and that in May 2004, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency designated these airports with official US government identifiers – LC46 for Tymbou and LC47 for Lefkoniko.
''These actions raise troubling issues related to international civil aviation and US foreign policy'', Snow said, noting that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 sets forth the US policy on Cyprus, which is a free government of Cyprus, and the withdrawal of all Turkish military forces on the island.
Citing Security Council resolutions 541 and 550 which support the US policy, Snowe notes that ''international norms of civil aviation, including those administered by ICAO, recognize the legal flights into a country cannot occur without the consent of the government with sovereignty over the airspace in question and the target airports specifically''.
''Flights into the occupied northern part of Cyprus, without the consent of the Republic of Cyprus, are inconsistent with these international standards'', said Snowe, underlining that this position was taken by the ICAO when contacted by US officials earlier this year.
Furthermore, Snowe notes that the belief of the State Department Spokesperson that the TSA inspection was part of 'looking at steps that can help ease the isolation of Turkish Cypriots' is misplaced.
''Even if the US were to determine that flights into the Turkish occupied area are beneficial, authorization of flights deemed illegal by ICAO (and in violation of the sovereignty of Cyprus) establishes a dangerous precedent'', Snowe stresses.
An additional concern, she says, ''is the very real possibility that these actions contravene the US policy for Cyprus'' noting that ''this policy has no room for acts that undermine the legitimate and legal sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus''.
Stressing that no US airline, cargo or passenger, has expressed any interest in flying into the north, Snowe underlines that she is curious ''as to how and why TSA has the resources to inspect these airports, while, at the same time, reducing the number of security personnel'' at US airports.