Moscow is opposed to any violent actions that turn against UN representatives, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Cyprus, Murat Ziazikov, says, in relation to an incident in Pyla last month. In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, the Ambassador also refers to a decision to start providing consular services to Russian citizens living in the Turkish-occupied areas of Cyprus, noting that “it is long overdue.” Russia’s position over a Cyprus solution “remains unchanged” on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, he adds.

Asked about a delay in Russia’s response to the Pyla incident, which took place on August 18, when UN peacekeepers were attacked in the buffer zone by Turkish Cypriot personnel – an incident which the rest of the Security Council permanent members condemned on the same day – Ambassador Ziazikov says that the Cyprus problem is a “complex, multifaceted issue” and there should be no “antagonism” when it comes to responding to events and, more importantly, one should not jump to a conclusion.

“August’s incident, involving UNFICYP peacekeepers in the buffer zone in the Pyla area, was in the UN Security Council’s agenda of discussions, as expected, which is responsible for the personnel of UN forces. As a result, as you know, a statement was passed which, among other things condemns the violation of the buffer zone status. From our part, we have repeatedly noted that we are opposed to any violent actions that turn against UN representatives, whether this concerns military, police or political personnel” the Russian diplomat tells CNA.

Referring more broadly to the situation in Cyprus and the efforts to resume talks, he says that Moscow is in favour of a comprehensive, viable and just settlement “along the familiar lines of international law, enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions.” At the same time, we consider that the final settlement should be reached by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, the Ambassador adds.

As far as consular services are concerned, he says that Russian citizens require consular protection for a range of daily issues in any corner of the globe, wherever they may find themselves “and the territory in the northern part of the island of divided Cyprus is no exception” he says, in a reference to the Turkish-occupied areas of the Republic of Cyprus.

Resolving the issue of consular assistance to Russians living there and who, by various estimates exceed 50 thousand people, is long overdue, he adds.

Consular services are already provided for urgent issues, along with consular protection, the Ambassador continues and explains that they receive applications to issue new passports or renew expired ones, issue marriage and birth certificates and provide legal advice. “Our people don’t feel anymore that their rights and opportunities are being ignored, when they are away from home” he says.

As for the consular services’ mechanism in the Turkish-occupied areas, he says that services are offered on request and on specific dates for Russian citizens “directly in the north of the island.” These procedures are being handled by personnel of the Russian Embassy in Cyprus, he adds.

He notes that the main goal is to secure that appropriate access is provided to effective consular protection and assistance for Russian citizens that need it. “This work will continue in ways that meet the national interests of our country” he adds.

Asked about cooperation with Republic of Cyprus authorities on the matter and whether Nicosia was kept informed during all stages, Ambassador Ziazikov says that consular matters maintain a central position in the political dialogue between Russia and Cyprus. “Taking into account the particularities of the northern area of Cyprus we are, undoubtedly in close contact with our Cypriot counterparts” he adds.

He also says that Russia’s position regarding a Cyprus solution is not affected, as “our stance remains unchanged and is based on the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

The Ambassador was asked by CNA whether Moscow considers the issue of direct flights to the Turkish-occupied areas, in response to relevant comments originating in the island’s north. “We have heard about the ideas from a number of political leaders from the northern part of Cyprus to start direct flights from Tymbou airport” to various cities in Russia, he says, noting that at the present stage “Russians who wish to visit the area in the northern part of Cyprus use intermediate flights.”

He further says that “from a humanitarian point of view it would be fairer if the right of mixed Russian-Cypriot families, who reside on the island, was secured in favour of uninterrupted communication with their relatives and friends in Russia and – to speak frankly – did not incur additional charges.”

Stakeholders from the hospitality sector openly refer in their statements to the great loss for the tourist market, due to no direct flight connections between Russia and Cyprus, he says and expresses certainty that “our Cypriot friends await the mass return of Russian tourists and we hope that this will definitely happen.”

Our aim, the Ambassador says, is to strive for our common benefit and for constructive results in Russian-Cypriot relations as well as in relation to Russian citizens residing on the island. “Every crisis comes to an end eventually” he remarks and says he is convinced that relations in Cyprus will be built “not from scratch” but on the basis of a rich experience in a mutually-beneficial cooperation, forged in a span of decades, to the benefit of the friendly people of our countries, as he notes.

Members of the UN Security Council condemned on August 22, 2023, the incidents in the buffer zone, in the village of Pyla, in Larnaca district, with assaults against UN peacekeepers, reiterating their full support for UNFICYP.

They also condemned the attacks on UN peacekeepers and the damage to UN vehicles by Turkish Cypriot personnel and wished a speedy and full recovery to the peacekeepers who were injured. They emphasized that “attacks against peacekeepers may constitute crimes under international law and reaffirmed their full commitment to the safety of all UN personnel.”

On Friday August 18, 2023, Turkish Cypriots punched and kicked a group of international peacekeepers who obstructed crews illegally working on a road that would encroach on the UN controlled buffer zone.

The attack happened as peacekeepers stood in the way of work crews building a road to connect the Turkish-occupied village of Arsos with the mixed Greek Cypriot-Turkish Cypriot village of Pyla, inside the buffer zone.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Repeated rounds of UN-led peace talks have so far failed to yield results. The latest round of negotiations, in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana ended inconclusively.

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