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Our View: Great expectations just fizzled out

President Anastasiades greeted warmly by President Putin in Moscow

PRESIDENT Anastasiades failed, thankfully, to satisfy the demands of opposition parties and some media for a defence agreement with Russia, during his official visit. The defence agreement they envisaged would have involved offering Russia military facilities on the island, including the use of the Andreas Papandreou air-base in Paphos for the occasional stationing of its fighter planes.

This was what had been reported by the media. In fact, Sigma TV, on its Wednesday night news, after Anastasiades’ meeting with President Putin, was reporting that facilities were offered to the Russian navy and air force. Was the issue of military facilities created by the media? Perhaps it was encouraged by Russia’s ambassador who had publicly said, several weeks before the visit, that his country would be interested in discussing military facilities in Cyprus.

However, despite the media’s wishful thinking, there was no such agreement. In fact the government spokesman claimed that Russia had never asked the Republic for military facilities. The defence agreement signed was an updated version of an older agreement that allowed Russian ships to dock in Cyprus ports. The updated agreement allowed Russian vessels combating terrorism and piracy to dock here, but that was all.

This would have disappointed the Greek Cypriots dreaming of a military alliance, so Anastasiades found other topics he hoped would put a positive sheen on his eagerly-awaited visit. Among other things he supposedly asked for a greater involvement by Russia in the Cyprus problem, and Putin obliged by repeating his support for the peace efforts.

Yesterday, Anastasiades expressed his gratitude for the Russian Federation’s “multi-faceted support” to efforts to solve the Cyprus problem. It is difficult to know what he was referring to as Moscow has never really offered practical support to the peace efforts.

Putin had also expressed an interest in the sea explorations for natural gas, not ruling out the possibility of Russia taking part in the next licensing round; he also said Russia could co-operate with companies already involved in explorations in the Cypriot EEZ. These rather vague comments, were played up by most media as there was little else positive to report. But it seems implausible for Putin, who, three months ago, on an official visit to Turkey, did everything he could to persuade President Erdogan to sign a large-scale energy deal. Would he risk such a deal – worth many billions of dollars per year – by becoming involved in Cyprus’ ongoing dispute with Turkey over sea explorations?

This seems very unlikely, but the government and the media had to find something, supposedly, big to report after cultivating inexplicably big expectations of Anastasiades’ visit.

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