THE KREMLIN is attaching “a great deal of importance” to President Nicos Anastasiades’ upcoming visit to Moscow, during which the two nations are set to sign a series of cooperation agreements, daily Phileleftheros reported on Monday.
The paper, which has been highlighting the visit, said the two governments would this Wednesday simultaneously announce the agreements ahead of the president’s trip next week.
Anastasiades travels to the Russian capital on February 25.
Though not spelling it out, Phileleftheros seemed to hint that the governments are about to forge a significant pact, on the back of earlier media reports that Cyprus may have offered Russia use of an airbase on the island.
The airbase speculation – initially not discouraged by Nicosia which had been playing up Anastasiades’ trip – was subsequently dismissed by Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.
Last week Kasoulides clarified that there was no question of Russian air or naval military bases on Cypriot soil, adding that Moscow had never made such a request.
He was clarifying Anastasiades’ earlier comments, when the president spoke of a renewal of a military cooperation agreement with Russia consisting of maintenance of military equipment sold to Cyprus years ago, as well as the purchase of spare parts in line with existing contracts.
Also being discussed was the possibility of providing facilities to Russia in connection with Russian nationals in the Middle East area, in case of emergency.
Whether Nicosia itself made the airbase offer as a gesture to Moscow is another matter. In a recent report, the Moscow Times, citing analysts, suggested that the proposal, if ever floated, was likely not genuine.
“To speak of a Russian military presence in Cyprus, on the territory of an EU state, is beyond strange,” Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told The Moscow Times.
“It just makes no sense. I am certain the president of Cyprus will retract his statement, which is being used as a tool to put pressure on the EU, in my opinion,” Pukhov added.
Publicly, the question of access to the Paphos airbase and Limassol port has been raised only by Russian ambassador in Nicosia Stanislav Osadchiy, who has often expressed Moscow’s intention to reach a potential agreement with Cyprus for a military base on the island.
What is known is that while in Moscow, Anastasiades and Vladimir Putin will put their signatures on a cooperation protocol initialled here last week.
The protocol lays the foundation for expanded cooperation in the sectors of trade, energy, tourism, education, science, agriculture and stockbreeding.
Cooperation agreements in the sectors of commercial shipping and telecommunications will also be signed.
Cypriot officials have recently objected to the imposition of additional sanctions on Russia. The two countries have entertained close financial ties since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Cyprus had been a key offshore destination for Russian capital and a major source of investment to the country.