Despite earlier assurances by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides that Russia did not ask for military facilities in Cyprus during Lavrov’s visit to the island last week, Cyprus is discussing a request from Moscow for facilities in the fight against terrorism in Syria, Russian ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy said on Monday.
Asked if Russia needs facilities on the island, the ambassador said the matter was being discussed with the Cypriot foreign ministry.
“I think we will find a way to get these facilities,” he said without elaborating.
Speaking after a meeting with EDEK chairman Marinos Sizopoulos, the ambassador said Cyprus’ position was particularly sensitive for Russia and all other allies fighting the Islamic State.
“We are seeing what is happening everywhere around Cyprus,” the ambassador said, adding that it was important to co-ordinate the actions in the fight against IS.
Later on Monday, Osadchiy clarified that Russia wanted “the same facilities France and Germany already have. We hope to sign (a deal) soon.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Kasoulides confirmed a discussion is underway between Cyprus and Russia over “facilities for humanitarian purposes and in emergency instances”.
“As we have repeatedly said, a dialogue is ongoing between the two governments regarding facilities for humanitarian and emergency purposes,” he said.
“It is an agreement on the evacuation of Russian nationals from the Middle East, and other similar emergency situations, as provided for by international law. The same applies to the case of France.”
Adding that France and Germany have been allowed additional facilities “some time ago” as a result of their participation in UNIFIL – the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Kasoulides was asked whether similar extended facilities will be granted to Russia.
“In emergency instances we are obliged to grant them by international law,” he replied.
“If people’s lives are at risk, we will certainly grant additional facilities.”
The Russian embassy subsequently issued a clarification on Russian news agency Ria Novosti, confirming Kasoulides’ remarks.
Earlier, the Foreign minister had told Politis radio that these matters are “too delicate for politicking”. He was referring to opposition parties EDEK, the Citizens Alliance, and the Greens, arguing in favour of offering Russia military facilities.
“They shouldn’t be causing problems in the relations between Cyprus and Russia, which are very good, especially when no complaint or request has been voiced,” he said.
“Such politicking does not harm the government or any party, but to Cyprus.”
France and Germany use an airbase in Paphos for refuelling, evacuation operations, and technical service.
Russia currently refuels its military ships in the port of Limassol and such cooperation is planned to be expanded, it had been reported earlier this year.
The British have been using RAF Akrotiri in Limassol to launch air strikes against IS in Syria and have offered its use to support French operations in the area.
This support does not include French air strikes in Syria.
Russia has intensified strikes on Syrian militants, including from Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris and for downing a Russian airliner in Egypt last month, killing all 224 on board.
Russian politicians have said the Paris attack underscores the need for the West and the Kremlin to bury their differences and join forces to take on militants in Syria