By Constantinos Psillides
RUSSIAN navy vessels will dock in Cypriot ports as part of an agreement signed between Moscow and Nicosia yesterday, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said.
Speaking through an interpreter during a joint news conference with President Nicos Anastasiades at his country house in Moscow, Putin said one of the eight agreements signed would allow Russian vessels to dock in Cypriot ports.
This concerned vessels taking part in international efforts to combat terrorism and piracy, the Russian President said.
Putin made it absolutely clear that the agreement signed by the two countries was not targeted at any other party. “I don’t think this should worry anyone,” said Putin.
The Russian President also thanked Cyprus for its stance against sanctions imposed on Russia by the EU over the crisis in Ukraine.
Anastasiades said Cyprus has been in favour of a diplomatic solution on the issue from the start.
“Diplomacy should provide the answer to the problem, not military might. At the same time, it has always been our position – in spite of the fact that we are forced to follow a common policy- that any sanctions against Russia would have an impact on member-states of the EU, including my little country that depends a lot on the Russian Federation, whether it was the economy, services, tourism, defence or the Cyprus problem,” said Anastasiades. “It is becoming gradually clear to all that sanctions against a country as large as Russia will have a negative impact not only for Cyprus but also other EU countries, the big industrial one’s not excluded.”
Responding to the same question, Putin remarked that sanctions and counter sanctions “hurt us and our partners and as EU experts have pointed out, the eurozone has suffered tens of billions in damage.”
“Decisions have to be made based on national interest and not based on general ideas. Countries like Cyprus, that defended their position, are defending the interests of the whole EU community,” he added.
Asked what Cyprus could do to improve the EU-Russia relationship, Putin noted that Cyprus might be a small island but it was an equal member of the EU and its voice mattered in the same way as the voice of other EU states.
“This is why Cyprus’ openly declared position on a series of fundamental issues begets our gratitude,” he said.
Anastasiades pledged that Cyprus would work for the creation of a constructive dialogue for the restoration of the strategic cooperation between Moscow and Brussels.
The two countries signed eight bilateral agreements in total, along with a Memorandum of Understanding between the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. The signing of the updated MoU aims to further strengthen ties and enhance cooperation between the two supervisory authorities, aiming specifically to facilitate the exchange of information and the more effective investigation of potential violations of the legislation governing the securities market.
The two countries also agreed to cooperate in matters of combating terrorism through information and experience exchange. An agreement on combating drugs and other illegal substances was also signed, and an agreement on cooperation in matters of technology and research.
Also, the Protocol of the 8th Cyprus-Russia Intergovernmental Committee for Economic Cooperation was signed, as well as a Memorandum of Understanding between the ministries of defence of the two countries for cooperation in the naval field.
Additionally, Cyprus and Russia have agreed to look into possible ways of cooperation in the areas of commerce, energy, transportations, agriculture, tourism and culture. The agreement stipulates that both countries will try to support and encourage business ventures undertaken by the private sector in all the aforementioned areas.
An MoU was also signed between the Cyprus Investment Promotion Authority (CIPA) and the organisation Invest in Russia.
During the joint press conference, Putin noted that Russian investments on the island exceeded $33 billion, “which is over 80 per cent of all foreign investment on the island.”
The two countries also agreed to work together in the areas of science and education, through cooperation with research centres, youth organisations and sports associations. Russia also agreed to provide Cypriots with scholarships, although no further details were given on the areas or nature of these scholarships.
The Russian president presented Anastasiades with a 17th century icon of the Virgin Mary and a letter written by EOKA leader Georgios Grivas, following the Zurich-London agreements in 1959.
The Cyprus president in turn gave Putin an icon of the Virgin Mary.
Regarding the Cyprus problem, the Cyprus News Agency reported, citing unnamed sources, that Anastasiades asked Putin for his help to which the Russian president responded positively. According to CNA Putin accepted to work with Turkey in an attempt to resolve the Cyprus problem. Putin also reiterated Russia`s commitment to a principled stance for a comprehensive and just solution, in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was also present at the meeting, said that he was displeased with both the stance of some of the members of the United Nations Security Council and UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon, who he reportedly said should be more cautious in the future. The Russian FM was referring to a January UNFICYP report that angered the Greek Cpriot side as it had failed to take a stance on Turkey’s violations of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and had included a reference to Turkish Cypriot isolation.
According to CNA, Anastasiades also accepted an invitation to visit Russia on May 9, to attend the celebrations commemorating Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. The Cypriot President reciprocated by inviting the Russian president to visit the island.
Anastasiades also met Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, with whom he mainly discussed financial issues.
Commerce, Industry, Tourism and Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotripis met with his Russian counterpart, Energy Minister Alexander Novak, with whom he discussed the possibility of cooperation in matters of energy, specifically natural gas.