Russians living in the northern part of divided Cyprus will soon be able to receive consular services, with Greek Cypriot media reporting that the development had been kept quiet for about a year.
Moscow is moving ahead with establishing a consular office in the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus, according to local media reports in the south that downplayed the development.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus and other networks, Nicosia was sounded out on the issue back in January 2021, when Moscow sought to inform Greek Cypriots and justify the move.
Setting up business and diplomatic offices in the north is anathema to Greek Cypriots in the south due to the Cyprus Problem.
But the Turkish Cypriot, which is only recognized by Turkey, is home to thousands of Russophones including some 15,000 Russian nationals.
Moscow says no plans to mirror embassy in north
The Russian embassy in Nicosia said there were no plans to set up an embassy but simply ways were being sought to provide services to Russian nationals who reside in the north.
Foreign politicians and diplomats have been treading a fine line with Nicosia when it came to references in the north, with the occasional slip of the tongue making headlines
“It is not only a matter of providing consular services but also humanitarian, cultural, and educational support to Russian compatriots,” the embassy said, adding that all steps were being coordinated with the Republic of Cyprus.
Local media also cited sources saying the Russian move was not linked to the war in Ukraine, which has caused Nicosia to side with Kiev and prompted Moscow to put the island nation into a category of “unfriendly countries” over sanctions.
Kathimerini’s Yianni Ioannou said the network understands Moscow had broached the subject back in January 2021 “in order to inform but also ask for understanding on the issue.”
“It appears that the decision is not directly related to developments in Ukraine or Nicosia's stance on the issue of sanctions but is intended to serve the nearly 15,000 Russian citizens who reside permanently in the so-called ‘TRNC’,” Ioannou wrote.
Pakistan is also another country which is expected to open a similar office this year in the north, according to Ioannou, who cited political developments and lack of progress in peace talks on the island in recent years.
Foreign politicians treading fine line with Nicosia
Foreign politicians and diplomats have been treading a fine line with Nicosia when it came to references in the north, with discussions often times taking place quietly with the exception of the occasional slip of the tongue in public.
In late February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was harshly criticized by Greek Cypriots after he made a remark about negotiation talks between Kiev and breakaway areas in Donbas, giving Cyprus as an example that both recognized and unrecognized sides could still sit down and talk peace.
"The only conflict where one of the parties refuses to talk to the other, and this is fully supported by the West, is the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Just look at Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, there is a negotiation process there, mediated by the United Nations,” Lavrov said.
Several weeks later US state undersecretary Victoria Nuland had a slip of the tongue when she referred to Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar as “President Tatar.”
“And now I’m gonna go up to the north and spend a little time with President Tatar and talk to him about the United States continued support for efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue…” she said.
Nuland, who was alerted during her remarks to the press, quickly walked back the honorific for the Turkish Cypriot leader.
“I guess it was a mistake, right? What do I call him?” she asked.
“Mister Tatar,” she rephrased.
“I apologize, it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Cyprus, we obviously refer to him as Mr. Tatar, and, yes.”