Former Cyprus ambassador Andrestinos Papadopoulos speaks to Russian ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy about the implications for Cyprus of recent events in Crimea
How does the deterioration in Russia’s relations with the EU and the US affect developments in our part of the world?
The Eastern Mediterranean and its surrounding areas are a very complex, rather explosive part of the world, as recent events have shown all too clearly.
The Arab Spring revealed that this volatility has been reinforced by external forces. In Syria, Russia managed to avert a full-scale repeat of the bloody scenario which the US and its western allies implemented in Iraq and Libya. Such results were achieved amid generally cordial discussions between Russia and the US.
Now, however, and through no fault of the Russians, these relations have worsened. Under such circumstances, it is more challenging to find solutions to regional problems.
To my mind, this conclusion is relevant to all regional issues, including the Cyprus problem. It is only at first sight that the increase in tension and the West’s heightened interest in Cyprus because of its hydrocarbons in its exclusive economic zone appear to create opportunities for a settlement. In practice, global confrontation impedes a just solution to regional problems.
Against the background of the Ukrainian crisis, references were made to Kosovo, Crimea and Cyprus. How can we distinguish between these cases and what conclusions can be drawn?
Drawing any parallels is risky because there are no twin situations. Every single case, including the above-mentioned, has its own peculiarities that must be taken into account. However, the need for an equal approach in terms of international law is most important.
There is little similarity between Crimea in 2014 and northern Cyprus in 1974. The overwhelming majority in Crimea is Russian, whereas Greek Cypriots were the majority in the north of Cyprus 40 years ago and Turkish Cypriots were the minority. Crimea was part of Ukraine for the last 60 years but had belonged to Russia for centuries. Northern Cyprus has never been an independent state or a part of another state.
The decision to reunite Crimea with Russia was taken by the overwhelming majority of its people in a legal referendum held in accordance with the Constitution of Crimea, whereas no referendum to proclaim the ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ (‘TRNC’) was ever held, and thus the opinion of Greek and Turkish Cypriots never taken into account.
The “Russian intervention” in Crimea is a lie, while the ‘TRNC’ still relies on the occupation forces.
Significantly, no referendum was held on the separation of Kosovo from Serbia (a part of which it had been for more than 1,200 years). The separation took place several years after the West bombed Yugoslavia, and then the West legitimised Kosovo’s separation.
So why does the West interpret international law the way it likes? Why do Kosovo, Eritrea and Southern Sudan have the right to self-determination and the Crimea does not? There is only one answer to this question: the West applies double-standards.
The close and friendly relations between Cyprus and Russia have strengthened over the years. Do you believe that recent developments in the Cyprus problem and the energy field as well as the haircut of Russian deposits in Cyprus banks might affect them negatively?
Russia’s position towards a Cyprus settlement has been consistent and principled. We support a solution that is in the best interests of the Cypriots themselves, and corresponds to the provisions of the UN Security Council resolutions as well as agreements within both communities.
In terms of developing cooperation between our countries in the energy field, unfortunately, we cannot say that we are satisfied.
Finally, nobody would believe me if I were to say that the haircut on bank deposits, initiated by the troika of international lenders, favoured the cooperation between Russia and Cyprus. Of course it complicated our relations.
Cyprus authorities have indicated to us that the losses from the haircut will be minimised. Now it is important that these signals be supported with actions.
Generally, though, the relations between the Russians and Cypriots are so close that, as far as I can see, no economic problems can undermine them.
How might the draft legislation about ‘deoffshorisation’ now being discussed in Moscow affect Cyprus?
Recently, and in response to western threats to impose sanctions on Russia, President Vladimir Putin called on Russian companies which work abroad to repatriate themselves.
This appeal is logical. The business climate in Russia is more favourable than it was 15-20 years ago, and repatriation would not only help Russian companies stay beyond the range of sanctions, but also ensure they are not hit by actions such as haircuts on deposits.
The implication of anti-Russian sanctions is that it will accelerate the repatriation of Russian businesses and Cyprus can hardly substitute those Russian companies which decided to leave the island, by developing businesses in other spheres, such as tourism and energy cooperation.
So the rate of repatriation will largely depend on the West itself. As for Cyprus, it is clear that a rapid exodus of Russian companies may create severe economic difficulties.