Cyprus says Gulf state protested after tourists attacked

The Limassol seafront is a popular destination for tourists and locals (Alex MITA)
The Limassol seafront is a popular destination for tourists and locals (Alex MITA)

Cyprus says it received a diplomatic protest from an unnamed Arab Gulf state after tourists were attacked during anti-migrant violence in the island's second city, Limassol.

Senior diplomat Kyriakos Kouros posted on the X platform, formerly Twitter, Sunday: "I received a demarche from an ambassador of an Arab country."

Kouros, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, added: "A number of its citizens, innocent visitors to our country, were among the victims of the incidents in Limassol, one quite seriously.

"They cut short the holidays to leave in a hurry, scared! I doubt they will ever come back."

Kouros posted a photograph on X of a group at the airport. One sat in a wheelchair and had a bandaged forearm. Another was dressed in a suit.

Police in the Mediterranean island said they arrested 13 people after protesters Friday evening injured five foreigners and smashed some foreign-owned shops on the Limassol seafront.

According to witness accounts posted on social media, among those assaulted were a group of visitors from Kuwait.

English language daily Cyprus Mail reported that a Kuwaiti tourist was among those listed as injured during the violence in Limassol.

During the unrest, trash bins were also set alight and some black-hooded protesters held a banner that read, "Refugees not welcome."

Kouros said that in his time as a veteran diplomat, he never felt so "embarrassed" about an incident in Cyprus.

"We should not have allowed it to develop into something so hideous," he said.

"And even worse, when they return to their country, I wonder what they will say about us and our culture that we have so loudly promoted all these years as a tourist destination characterised by our timeless kindness, culture and innate hospitality."

Authorities said that a Vietnamese mother whose shop was vandalised on Friday will receive state support to repair her property. A post on social media had shown her in tears after the attack.

Anti-migrant sentiment has grown in recent years as the government highlighted its struggles against irregular migration.

European Union member Cyprus says it is a "front-line country" on the Mediterranean migrant route, struggling to cope with an influx of undocumented migrants and refugees.

The latest EU data shows Cyprus has the highest number of first-time asylum applications relative to population in the 27-member bloc.

With almost four million annual visitors, tourism is a key economic driver, contributing around 15 percent of GDP to the Cypriot economy.