By Angelos Anastasiou
NEXT week’s football cup final shaped decision-making in Tuesday’s kick-off meeting between Cyprus police and members of the US vice-president’s security detail, leading to a switch in the venue of Joe Biden’s stay from the Hilton in Nicosia to a Limassol hotel, according to reports.
In the meeting to devise the security plan for the American number two’s protection during his two-day stay, it was decided that Biden will be given head-of-state protection, meaning that for the duration of his 48-hour visit hundreds of police officers – led by the elite MMAD riot squad members – will be on red alert.
Biden will arrive in Cyprus on Wednesday, May 21, in an US government jet, which will carry two bulletproof limos – one for him and one for his escort.
Per head-of-state protocol, he will be accompanied by armed members of his security detail bearing identification badges. His general safety will be the remit of Cyprus police, it was established during the meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first in a series to follow in order to finalise every detail of Biden’s itinerary.
But Phileleftheros reported that while the visitors were scheduled to stay at the Hilton in Nicosia, it emerged at the meeting that a Limassol hotel would be best suited to host Biden and his entourage.
That is because the final whistle at football cup final, scheduled for the evening of May 21 between Nicosia-based APOEL and Aradippou club Ermis, may well find scores of APOEL’s fans flocking to the club’s headquarters – adjacent to the Hilton – in celebration, and the gathered crowd has been deemed a potentially serious security risk.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides neither confirmed nor denied the report, and could only offer assurances that “all necessary security measures are being taken.” But any truth to the paper’s claims would mean the implicit admission by the police of its inability to control an anticipated crowd of a few hundred football fans, or even block their gathering altogether.
Meanwhile, a separate security mission was expected to arrive from the United States yesterday, in order to finalise the schedule for Biden’s two-day visit, while Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides – as part of a four-day official visit to the U.S. – had a meeting with Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in which issues relating to the visit w