The decision to start providing consular services to Russian citizens living in the north was “long overdue”, Russian Ambassador in Cyprus Murat Zyazikov said on Monday.

In an interview with the Cyprus News Agency, he said Russian citizens require consular protection for a range of daily issues in any corner of the globe, wherever they may find themselves “and the territory in the northern part of the island of divided Cyprus is no exception”.

Resolving the issue of consular assistance to Russians living there and who, by various estimates exceed 50,000 people, is long overdue, he added.

“Our people don’t feel anymore that their rights and opportunities are being ignored, when they are away from home,” he said.

As for consular services in the north, he said that services are offered on request and on specific dates for Russian citizens “directly in the north of the island.” These procedures are being handled by personnel of the Russian Embassy in Cyprus.

He notes that the main goal is to secure that appropriate access is provided to effective consular protection and assistance for Russian citizens that need it. “This work will continue in ways that meet the national interests of our country” he adds.

Asked if Nicosia was kept informed during all stages, Ambassador Zyazikov said that consular matters maintain a central position in the political dialogue between Russia and Cyprus. “Taking into account the particularities of the northern area of Cyprus we are, undoubtedly in close contact with our Cypriot counterparts”.

Asked about direct flights between Russia and the north, the ambassador said that “from a humanitarian point of view it would be fairer if the rights of mixed Russian-Cypriot families, who reside on the island, was secured in favour of uninterrupted communication with their relatives and friends in Russia and – to speak frankly – did not incur additional charges.”

Hospitality sector stakeholders openly refer to the great loss for the tourist market, due to no direct flight connections between Russia and Cyprus, he added, expressing the certainty that “our Cypriot friends await the mass return of Russian tourists and we hope that this will definitely happen.”

Commenting on the delay in Russia’s response to the Pyla incident, which took place on August 18 when UN peacekeepers were attacked in the buffer zone by Turkish Cypriot personnel – an incident which the rest of the Security Council permanent members condemned on the same day – Ambassador Zyazikov said that the Cyprus problem is a “complex, multifaceted issue” and there should be no “antagonism” when it comes to responding to events and, more importantly, one should not jump to a conclusion.

“We have repeatedly noted that we are opposed to any violent actions that turn against UN representatives, whether this concerns military, police or political personnel,” he added.

Referring more broadly to the situation in Cyprus and the efforts to resume talks, he said Moscow is in favour of a comprehensive, viable and just settlement “along the familiar lines of international law, enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions.” At the same time, we consider that the final settlement should be reached by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, the ambassador added.

However, Russia’s position on a Cyprus solution “remains unchanged” on the basis of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, he added.