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Cyprus closes its embassy in Libya

Black smoke billows from a fuel storage depot near the airport in Tripoli, Libya, 28 July 2014, after it was hit by rocket fire. The Libyan government called on rival militias to stop fighting around the Tripoli airport to allow civil defence forces to put out a fire that broke out in oil tankers there

By staff reporter

Cyprus is shutting down its embassy in Libya and any personnel and other Cypriot nationals wishing to leave the country can do so on a Greek warship, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said on Thursday.

“We are monitoring developments in Libya with great concern,” the minister said, adding that “we had taken measures to tackle any emergency a long time ago.”

He said it was a fact that Cypriots working in Libya wanted to stay and fulfill their contracts but the situation has reached a point where it was decided to shut the embassy and evacuate those who remained, and wanted to, under escort.

Kasoulides said the situation was out of control. “You have no one to protect, consequently it is not a situation that allows us to maintain our embassy open.”

“We expect a Greek warship to approach Libya to pick up Greeks, Cypriots, and other nationals,” he said.

The minister said the number of Cypriots in Libya was under 20 people.

Greece said it is sending a frigate and two other vessels to Libya to evacuate workers at its embassy in Tripoli as well as a few hundred Chinese and European nationals.

The Greek frigate Salamis, which can carry up to 100 evacuees, is expected to arrive in Libya on Thursday evening, a defence ministry official said.

A second naval vessel, Prometheus, and a passenger ferry are expected to help evacuate workers from countries including Britain and Cyprus, officials said.

The past two weeks of fighting between rival militias in Libya have been the worst since the civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, prompting Western governments to follow the United States and the United Nations in pulling their diplomats out of the North African country.

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