By Evie Andreou
Russian Foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov arrived under strict security measures in Cyprus earlier tonight.
Lavrov, who arrived by private jet at 8.55pm, was welcomed by the Chief of Protocol Marios Kountourides and the Russian ambassador in Cyprus Stanislav Osadchiy.
Both within the airport premises, and the surrounding roads there was a strong police presence. Since Tuesday afternoon, a security plan drawn up especially for Lavrov’s visit and that of US Secretary of State John Kerry, due on Thursday, was put into force.
Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Tuesday that the necessary police force has been enlisted to guarantee the safety of the two visitors. A coordination centre has also been set up to observe and coordinate the project.
Lavrov’s hotel, state broadcaster CyBC said, was placed under heavy security, while armed men of the anti-terrorism squad were tasked with his protection. Nobody is allowed to enter the site without permission.
During his one-day visit Lavrov will on Wednesday meet President Nicos Anastasiades, foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulides, House speaker Yiannakis Omirou and Archbishop Chrysostomos.
On the agenda will be the Cyprus problem, namely security, guarantees, human rights and the economic aspect of the solution.
Lavrov will not be meeting Turkish Cypriot Mustafa Akinci, after the latter’s refusal to join Lavrov and Anastasiades for lunch at a venue in the buffer zone. The Turkish Cypriot side had said last week that Russia was not “following the principle of equality” with the refusal by its foreign minister (Lavrov) to cross to the north for a meeting.
Deputy spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said that with the visits of Lavrov, Kerry, and the Chinese foreign affairs minister, who is expected to arrive later in the month, and following last month’s visits of the British and German foreign ministers, concerning the Cyprus problem, a round of visits is completed.
He said that during these visits, bilateral issues between Cyprus and these countries were also on the agenda as were issues of regional security.
Despite welcoming Lavrov’s decision not to cross to the north, opposition parties criticised the government for Kerry’s scheduled visit north to meet Akinci.
Papadopoulos said that based on an announcement issued by the Republic of Cyprus since 2003 officials of other countries may cross to the north to meet Turkish Cypriot leaders without any flags or distinct symbols on their vehicles.
During the stay of the two visitors, police will close streets for their safe transfer. For security reasons, there will not be any announcements as to which streets will be closed. A helicopter will also escort the convoy of cars of the two men.
Lavrov is expected to depart on Wednesday afternoon. US Secretary of State John Kerry will be on Cyprus on Thursday to discuss bilateral US-Cyprus issues along with the Cyprus problem and the situation in the region.
Speaking to the press after the signing of an agreement on organised crime on Tuesday with US Ambassador Kathleen Ann Doherty, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the ambassador had expressed gratitude for the “cooperation they have had thus far with the police over the security measures to be implemented [during Kerry’s visit]”.
“She noted that the measures taken are already evident, both with regard to the protection and guarding of the US embassy and other countries, and at airports and crossing points,” the Justice minister said.
“The police are already on heightened alert.”