By Andria Kades
SECURITY was visibly upped on Wednesday in light of the high ranking visits to Cyprus from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and is expected to remain so until US secretary of state John Kerry departs on Thursday evening.
Helicopters were circling Nicosia all morning with streets in the capital and Larnaca closed off to ensure Lavrov and his delegation’s safety.
As the streets that would remain closed off were not announced in advance to ensure security which caused traffic problems for motorists who couldn’t use their normal routes to go to work or take their children to school and found themselves driving around in circles, according to reports.
Lavrov’s motorcade had driven from his (undisclosed) Nicosia hotel to the presidential palace, from there to the foreign ministry, the House, the Archbishopric in the old town and back to the palace for lunch.
Although police were tight lipped about what exactly authorities were doing, the measures encompassed air, land and coastline security.
Airports and ports had more officers on the scene, busy streets had more patrols – which have already been increased in light of the recent Paris attacks – however no official numbers of how many officers were deployed for the security operations have been released.
A coordination centre was also been set up to oversee operations of the two visitors while Lavrov’s hotel, was also placed under heavy security, and armed officers from the anti-terrorism squad were tasked with his protection. Snipers were reportedly placed on tall buildings on the lookout for any suspicious activity. The full-on measures will remain in place until Kerry leaves.
Embassies in Cyprus, particularly that of the US have been surrounded with armed security with US Ambassador Kathleen Ann Doherty, expressing gratitude earlier this week for the “cooperation they have had thus far with the police over the security measures to be implemented [during Kerry’s visit]” according to Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou.
Acknowledging the extra security may be problematic for the public, he called on citizens to be patient while “any trouble was justified” for the protection of the high ranking officials.
Cyprus has seen two other top officials visit this month – the German and British foreign ministers but the level of security was not as trumpeted in the same manner. The Chinese foreign minister is due on December 21.