Britain’s Minister for Europe David Lidington took a step back from the UK’s icy stance last week on President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to Russia, saying his government remained engaged with Cyprus on security and military issues.
Lidington was responding to a question from Conservative MP Nicholas Soames to the Foreign Office on what discussions the British government had had with Cyprus on the country’s proposed renewal of its military cooperation agreement with Russia.
In his written answer Lidington said the UK government was aware of reports of recent agreements, including military agreements between the Cyprus and Russia.
“It is our understanding that the military aspects represent a continuation of existing arrangements. The United Kingdom remains fully engaged on a range of security and military issues with the Republic of Cyprus,” he said.
Lidington also referred to the “united message” sent by the EU to Russia that its actions in Ukraine “are in flagrant breach of international law”. He said that “all member states, including Cyprus, unanimously agreed to impose measures against Russia in response to these actions.”
Last Friday the British Foreign Office had strong words for Cyprus over a deal with Russia that formalised the use of Cypriot ports by Russian navy ships. The FCO said that although the agreement was a matter for Cyprus, when set in the context of the West’s stance on Russia over Ukraine, the move was a cause for concern.
The FCO source said London believed the European Union position on Russia’s actions in Ukraine were clear and that “in light of the current problems it is not the time to extend a hand of friendship to Russia” and that EU unity in the face of Russian aggression was important.
The US this week echoed the British view regarding the timing of the Russia visit but Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasouldies said on Tuesday the US had no right to complain, saying: “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.”