By Andrestinos Papadopoulos
TAKING INTO account the comments and reactions generated by President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to Moscow – the first by an EU leader during the ongoing crisis in Ukraine – it could be characterised as having been very successful.
It proved, despite various challenges, the resilience of the traditionally friendly relations between Cyprus and Russia and the strong political commitment to strengthen and deepen these relations in a variety of fields.
With the Ukrainian crisis in mind, however, the US and the UK reacted negatively. The first expressed complaints over the timing of the visit, and the second voiced their concerns over a deal that formalised the use of Cypriot ports by the Russian navy, although the UK’s Minister for Europe David Lidington later tried to play down criticism of the visit.
The argument was that the importance of presenting a unified front in pressuring Russia had been jeopardised. The antithesis to this thesis, however, is that Turkey, a NATO member and EU candidate, does not apply sanctions against Russia and received President Putin in Ankara, as Hungary did in Budapest, without any reaction either from the US or the EU. However, Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus and violation of its exclusive economic zone are not a matter of concern!
Within such a framework of opposing arguments in the wake of the president’s visit to Moscow, the following are of particular interest:
In the first place, EU-Russian relations have acquired a particular importance at this stage. In contrast to the policy of sanctions, Cyprus has supported constructive dialogue and milder sanctions. Cyprus’ voice in the EU has had a balancing effect and its involvement in the efforts to contain the Ukrainian crisis was very much appreciated by President Vladimir Putin.
In his comments, President Anastasiades expressed the EU’s position and conveyed messages from France and Germany, thus concurring with the Franco-German opening towards Russia. The telephone calls to Chancellor Angela Merkel after his return to Cyprus, testifies to this fact.
The geographic position of Cyprus and Russia’s particular interest in the eastern Mediterranean, as witnessed by its naval base in Tartus (Syria), presents another issue conducive to cooperation between the two countries with a view to solving the problems of the region through diplomacy and negotiations.
Cyprus’ role in the stability of the eastern Mediterranean is confirmed by the excellent relations it entertains with all the countries of the region, and the fact that it can serve as a bridge between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
A good example is the tripartite cooperation between Cyprus, Egypt and Greece which resulted in the “Cairo Declaration” of November 2014. At this time of upheaval in the region, the signing of a series of agreements between Russia and Egypt offers yet another framework of cooperation between Cyprus and Russia, so as to fulfil the vision of stability, peace and prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean.
The antithesis of this vision comes again from Turkey which, on the basis of the Neo-Ottoman dogma of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, aspires to dominate the eastern Mediterranean, violating every principle of international law.
As far as the Cyprus problem is concerned, Russia played, and can still play, an active role. It has always supported the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of international law, the UN Charter and the resolutions of the Security Council.
The good relations between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prompted President Anastasiades to ask the Russian president to convey to Turkey messages which will help to revive the inter-communal negotiations and their successful completion.
This, however, does not prohibit Cyprus from continuing to ask its “strategic partner”, the USA, to intervene in the direction of Turkey with a view to changing its negative stand on the Cyprus problem. In this connection, it should be mentioned that Russia did not complain over the upgrade of our relations with the US.
Finally, the signing of 11 agreements relating to important issues of mutual interest proves the existence of the political will to further strengthen bilateral relations, which are not directed against any third country.
The outcome of our friendly relations with Moscow is the restructuring of the 2.5 billion euro loan on favourable terms and plans for a more enterprising cooperation in the field of energy.
The political significance of these agreements is that they confirm the statehood of the Republic of Cyprus which by contrast is not recognised by Turkey. This point has been taken up by Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu who rushed to state that the agreements were not binding on the Turkish Cypriots.
In view of the above, the conclusion is that President Anastasiades’ visit to Moscow was a resounding success. It created the political framework within which the further strengthening and deepening of the Cyprus-Russia relations will be sought despite the reaction of third parties and their efforts to isolate Moscow. On the basis of reciprocity, Cyprus does not forget and in need is a friend indeed.
Dr Andrestinos N Papadopoulos is a former ambassador of Cyprus