Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Thursday the instruction to turn back third country nationals arriving at Larnaca airport and planning on staying in Greek Cypriot properties in the north was given by a foreign ministry official and he was not sure if the minister knew about it in the first place.
The government had been forced to suspend the rule after police at Larnaca airport turned back 50 people – 35 Israelis and 15 Lebanese nationals – on Monday night. The Israelis got to stay after the intervention of the country’s embassy and the suspension of the measure.
Speaking on state radio on Thursday, Nicolaou confirmed “there was a written instruction issued by the foreign ministry official in charge of the matter,” but he did not name the person.
“When I was informed about the matter I contacted the interior minister … and there was an understanding with the foreign minister to review the directive because we think that at this stage such decisions cannot be enforced the way they are,” he added.
“I only know this letter was sent by the foreign ministry but it was not the minister who signed it. And I don’t know if the foreign minister knew,” Nicolaou said.
Non-EU nationals arriving in Cyprus are asked to state their place of residence in the government-controlled areas during their visit.
If they state they intend on staying in property belonging to Greek Cypriots in the north, they are denied entry.
Officers at the airport have lists with these properties, prepared by the foreign ministry, with the name of each hotel, and the area they are located in, in the north.