Published On: Sat, Mar 9th, 2024

The abandoned European airport stuck in the 1970s with planes still rotting on the tarmac | World | News

Many commercial airports around the world have at some point become abandoned only to reopen again after complete makeovers. However, some aren’t so lucky and remain shadows of their former selves.

This includes Nicosia International Airport, once the principal airport for Cyprus‘ capital which has since fallen into decay.

Conjure up an image of the airport in your head and you might envisage an empty building, perhaps a few luggage carts scattered here and there, but not much else.

But Nicosia is much more than that and stands just as it did when it was completely abandoned in the 1970s, almost as if someone left overnight.

Constructed in the 1930s, the airport was originally used as Cyprus’ main Royal Air Force station.

During World War 2, the airport’s facilities and runway were extended, and American bombers used it in 1943 and 1944 when returning from Allied bombings of the Romanian Ploieşti oil fields.

For a time after the war, commercial services were reintroduced to the airport and multiple airways provided regular services in and out of the country.

Vast sums of money were pumped into it, including £50,000 in 1949 — £1.4million adjusted for inflation — and was followed by many other terminals opening. Things were going well and it was shaping up to continue in its role as the island’s main thoroughfare.

Everything changed in 1974. That year, while plans were being drawn up to extend the terminal, Turkey, which claims historical rights to the island, invaded the island.

Heavy bombing of the airport ensued, and a ground attack involving multiple battalions in the vicinity followed. The airport became the scene of some of the heaviest fighting between Cypriot and Turkish forces, which led the United Nations Security Council to declare it a United Nations Protected Area (UNPA) during the conflict.

After the ceasefire, both sides were forced to withdraw some 500 metres from the perimeter of the airport and the UN declared the area a buffer zone. It separated the two sides of the island — the north controlled by Turkish Cypriots and the south by Greek Cypriots — and so the airport became inoperable.

The last ever commercial flight left the runway’s tarmac in 1977 under United Nations (UN) Special Authorisation.

Today, UN helicopters and staff who keep the peace are stationed at the airport, and there are recreational facilities for the personnel to use.

But apart from them, it’s as if the airport is a ghost town. Shrapnel is scattered across the floors where holidayers previously waited for immigration checks.

Chairs in waiting rooms are covered in dirt and bird excrement and other detritus associated with decay.

Under UN Law, Cyprus is recognised as the territory of the Republic of Cyprus under Turkish occupation, but according to international law, Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus is considered illegal.

In this sense, no other country recognised Northern Cyprus as a sovereign state other than the Republic of Turkey.

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