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Meeting with migrants will be the highlight of Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus

ROME, Italy – Cypriot Ambassador to the Holy See George Poulides said this week that the highlight of Pope Francis’ visit to the island of Cyprus next week will be his meeting with migrants and refugees.

“The most symbolic moment of Pope Francis’ trip to Cyprus is the meeting with refugees and immigrants in Nicosia,” Poulides told the Italian news agency ANSA.

The Pope will leave the Vatican for a 5-day visit starting in Cyprus next Thursday and later traveling to Athens, Greece and the island of Lesvos.

“Pope Francis’ visit to Cyprus is a historic event,” said Poulides, dean of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican since 2019.

The ambassador said the issue of migration and refugees would be among the key points discussed between the Pope and government officials, along with “environmental protection, the fight against climate change and human rights issues. man”.

Last May, Cyprus launched an appeal for help from the European Union after declaring a “state of emergency” due to the flood of migrants overwhelming its reception centers.

“Due to this situation and the overcrowding in the reception centers, I was forced to make a written representation to the European Commission,” Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said.

Nouris informed the committee that Cyprus “was entering a state of emergency with regard to migration and that there was no longer any capacity to accommodate additional migrants”.

Francis’ trip to Cyprus will only be the second time that a pope has visited the island, which is divided into two parts separated by the so-called “green line” of the UN. The territory under the line, which comprises about 59 percent of the area, remains under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus, while the area to the north is managed by the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, occupied by Turkey. in 1974.

“The authorities of the Republic of Cyprus are doing everything possible to combat the phenomenon, always respecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of these people,” Poulides told ANSA. “The largest number of migrants in the territory controlled by the Republic of Cyprus come from Turkey via the occupied territories. “

“President of the Republic Nikos Anastasiades is expected to brief Pope Francis on the latest developments in the Cypriot question, Turkey’s latest provocations both on land and at sea, as well as ongoing efforts to resolve the Cypriot issue,” said he declared.

“The efforts and initiatives taken by the UN are hampered by the Turkish provocation,” he added. “The Republic of Cyprus seeks to find a just and lasting solution to the Cyprus question, a solution which will be in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. “

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