By Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos
The statements by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov and the ministry’s spokesman Alexander Lukashevich concerning Turkey’s intention to carry out seismic studies in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have been the subject of different interpretations.
Some were negative, viewing for instance Russia’s allusion to “unilateral actions” as referring to the Republic of Cyprus and the non-recognition of the Cyprus’ right to exploit the natural resources of its EEZ. The lack of a mention of Turkey by name was also highlighted.
However, if we look at the texts through legal and diplomatic lenses and not those of political or party expediencies, we can understand their real meaning. In the first place, the “unilateral actions and show of force” actually refer to Turkey.
We easily reach this conclusion from the reference in Lukashevich’s statement to “the situation around the EEZ of the Republic of Cyprus”.
The Republic’s EEZ is recognised by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides that a coastal state has sovereign rights in its EEZ to explore, develop and preserve the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil (Article 65, subparagraph 1a). Cyprus’ right, therefore, to exploit its natural resources in its EEZ is not questioned by the Russian statements. Finally, not mentioning Turkey by name is part of diplomatic practice, according to which you do not put somebody in the corner if you want to influence him.
So much for the statements. Russia then took a tougher step by making a demarche to the foreign ministry in Ankara. A demarche is stronger than a statement, since in diplomatic practice it is considered as an upgraded action.
At the Turkish foreign ministry, the Russian ambassador repeated the known position of Russia, as stated in August 2011 by the same Alexander Lukashevich. Replying to a question concerning Turkey challenging the Republic’s right to exploit the natural resources of its EEZ, Lukashevich then stressed that “such activities are consistent with international law and the scope of sovereign rights available to the Republic of Cyprus in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
In view of the above, who can deny that Russia stood by our side?
It augers well that President Anastasiades has expressed his satisfaction with Russia’s reaction. In an interview published in the newspaper, Simerini, on October 12 he stressed that “the option of closer relations with the United States is not taken at the expense of our traditional and friendly relations with Russia. On the contrary, and at the European Council … we try to warn realistically about the problems and the consequences which will affect not only Russia.”
Even in the present climate of sanctions, Russia has proved to be a real friend.
Dr Andrestinos Papadopoulos is a former ambassador of Cyprus