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Foreign Ministry official behind third-country entry ban directive

A Foreign ministry officer had sent the controversial regulations directive to Cyprus police providing that entry is denied to third-country tourists who have bookings at Greek Cypriot owned properties in the breakaway north.

And the Foreign Minister himself was not aware of the directive which has raised a political storm, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told state radio on Thursday.

The issue surfaced after a group of tourists from non EU countries such as Israel, Serbia and Lebanon were banned entry into the divided island earlier this week.

“This confusing policy has been frozen until the whole issue is reviewed…the Foreign Minister himself was not aware of these new rules and regulations,” Nicolaou said.

“The Interior Ministry should decide how such cases will be handled,” he added.

The policy of barring entry to third country nationals was implemented at Larnaca airport on Monday night.

Of the 51 visitors initially denied entry only 16, from Lebanon and Serbia, were put on a plane back home.

Thirty-five Israelis with bookings in the north were eventually allowed into the country, but only after the intervention of their embassy which they had contacted to complain.

A Lebanese couple was sent back after telling the policeman at passport control they would “probably” visit the north.

The over-zealous officer ignored the fact the couple would be staying in the Republic with a Greek Cypriot friend.

According to this officer’s interpretation of the new guidelines, third country nationals who express merely an intention to visit the north had to be denied entry.

At the same time, Israelis with bookings at the prohibited hotels were allowed through because their embassy intervened and, apparently, the authorities did not want to upset relations with Israel.

Ironically, citizens of EU countries can stay in whatever Greek Cypriot-owned property they choose in the north after being picked up from Larnaca airport by a Turkish Cypriot cab.

Cyprus is divided since a 1974 invasion by Turkey which still maintains troops in the breakaway north.

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