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12° Nicosia,
14 June, 2024
 
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Russian consular services in occupied areas stirs debate

Russia had wanted to provide consular assistance since 2021 to its citizens residing in the pseudo-state

Yiannis Ioannou

Yiannis Ioannou

In April 2022, when K reported that Russia was planning to establish permanent consular services for Russian citizens residing in the occupied territories, both Moscow and the Russian Federation's delegation to the European Union denied the publication, likening it to "searching for a black cat in a dark room." At that time, the core of Russia's denial centered on the nature of the building in occupied Nicosia and whether it would function as a "consulate." However, on August 9, the Russian federal authorities, through the TASS agency, officially announced the establishment of a consular assistance point in "Northern Cyprus," as characterized in the report. The Russian news agency cited statements by the Russian ambassador in Nicosia, Murat Zyazykov, who emphasized that this move was not politically driven and had no connection to the Cyprus problem.

Background

The news of Russia's intent to set up a consular service point in the occupied territories is not novel; it traces back to January 2021 when Moscow engaged with Nicosia to both inform and seek understanding regarding its intention to operate in areas where the Republic of Cyprus lacks effective control. Over time, Moscow has cited humanitarian reasons to provide more efficient consular services to its citizens permanently residing in the occupied regions of Cyprus, aiming to serve them better than its embassy in Nicosia.

According to Russian news sources, the number of residents occasionally mentioned is around 50,000. However, information from "K" suggests that this number could be higher, particularly when accounting for seasonal visitors such as tourists and students who travel to the Occupied Territories or attend "universities" there. Irrespective of Nicosia's potential objections, it is assessed that Moscow will proceed with this initiative while ensuring that it does not impact its principled stance on the Cyprus problem.

Recognition question

The news from the "TASS" agency generated reactions across Greek Cypriot, Greek, and Turkish Cypriot media. However, circles in the so-called TRNC downplayed the significance of recognizing the pseudo-state by the Russian Federation. Yet, the crux of the matter is essentially technical. Concerning consular services provided by third countries in the Occupied Territories, the operational approach is pivotal, especially regarding basic assistance like issuing temporary travel documents (such as PTE or laissez-passer) in cases of lost passports. The focus is on whether this occurs within the territory under the effective control of the RoC. In response, the Cypriot Foreign Ministry issued a press release stating that an investigation would be conducted into Russia's provision of consular services in the occupied territories.

The bigger picture

The timing of Russia's announcement about the consular services point in the occupied territories is far from coincidental. It holds significance in the larger geopolitical context of Russian-Turkish relations and in relation to Moscow's intermittent signals to Nicosia. The issue further highlights the dynamics in Erdogan-Putin relations amid the backdrop of food security matters and grain routes to Ukraine via the Black Sea. This issue has regained prominence due to the pressure Moscow is exerting on Ankara following the latter's pro-Western shift after the NATO summit in Vilnius, along with the anticipated Putin-Erdogan meeting in Turkey, scheduled for August but remaining uncertain.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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Cyprus  |  Russia  |  consular

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