By Jean Christou
CYPRUS makes no apology for irritating the US and Britain by the visit to Russia last week of President Nicos Anastasiades where a number of agreements were signed between Nicosia and Moscow, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides said yesterday.
Kasouldies was speaking on a CyBC morning show from the US following a meeting earlier with US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland during which the Cyprus issue, the Russia visit and Ukraine were discussed. Kasoulides conceded that he had heard complaints and grievances in Washington over the Russia visit but he said it was part and parcel of diplomacy for both sides to air their complaints and to listen and answer, and give explanations.
The main grievance the US had was not so much the agreements that had been signed in Moscow but the timing of the visit, he said.
Indeed, earlier, Marie Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, had said this was not the time for “business as usual with Russia”. An almost identical comment was made by a British Foreign Office spokesman on Friday.
Harf said the US had stressed to their European allies and partners the importance of unity and of pressing Russia to stop fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“That’s certainly something we feel very strongly about,” she added. Kasoulides said there was no issue for the US with regard to the eight bilateral agreements signed as full explanations had been given.
“Our position in all this is that Cyprus has its own problem,” said Kasoulides. “Comparing the treatment of Ukraine’s problem with the problem of the aggressive policy of Turkey, is justifiably asking why the penalties [on Russia]… but the same attitude is not there in the case of Turkey. This is our first question.”
Secondly Cyprus comes under UN auspices and all the resolutions that go along with that, he added.
“Therefore, it is our position that the treatment by the five permanent Security Council members cannot be different… especially when we find there is much more understanding from Russia and France and China than from Britain and the US,” Kasoulides said.
“We cannot afford to ignore a permanent member of the Security Council,” he added, referring to Russia. The foreign minister said the US, “our strategic partners”, should have behaved differently when Turkey was violating the island’s exclusive economic zone given that Cyprus’ position when it came to the West’s fight against the Islamic State was unimpeachable compared to Turkey’s.
“If it [the US] had taken a firm stance with regard to the violation of our EEZ, then in fairness they might have had the right to complain but under the circumstances, they do not,” Kasoulides said.
Asked to comment on Monday’s furore surrounding a Twitter post by US ambassador John Koenig that was perceived as linking Anastasiades’ Russia visit with the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Friday, the foreign minister said the issue had been raised with Nuland but added that there were more important issues to worry about, and in any case Koenig’s term in Cyprus would be up in a matter of months. “There is no need to spend any more time on this,” he added.