By George Psyllides
Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci’s spokesman said on Friday that Russia was not “following the principle of equality” with the refusal by its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to cross to the north for a meeting when he visits the island next Wednesday.
In response, Akinci has refused to join Lavrov and President Nicos Anastasiades for lunch at a venue in the buffer zone, the Turkish Cypriot leader’s spokesman Baris Burcu said.
The Russian foreign minister “did not follow the principle of equality”, he said – that is, he was not going to meet Akinci before the lunch like he is scheduled to do with Anastasiades.
Lavrov is due to pay a working visit to Cyprus on December 1-2 to discuss the Cyprus problem and the Syrian conflict. The Russian diplomat is due to meet Anastasiades and his Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides. The sides will exchange views on Russia’s relations with the EU.
Burcu said the Turkish Cypriot side was intensifying efforts to find a solution based on political equality and had increased diplomatic contacts and Russia had not shown “sensitivity” to this, unlike other foreign officials such as the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, the German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk and the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Junker, who had all visited Akinci in the north.
US Secretary of State, John Kerry who will be here on Thursday, will also meet with Akinci in the north at his residence.
But Moscow said earlier in the day: “We offered a compromise option of meeting Lavrov on the ‘green line’ to the leader of Cypriot Turks. The proposal would have taken account the interests of both communities residing on the island but it was turned down,” according to Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova.
Such a meeting could be interpreted as official recognition of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state by Russia, Zakharova said. “In our view, it would be damaging for our position of principle concerning the settlement of the Cyprus problem,” she added.
“It is important to discuss the situation in the Cypriot settlement and talk about the situation in Syria,” Zakharova said.
She noted that Nicosia “reacted immediately and with full understanding of Russia’s position” after Turkey downed the Su-24 bomber on Tuesday.
Opposition DIKO said Lavrov’s decision was an especially encouraging development because it emphasised the existence of the Republic of Cyprus at a time its degradation was being sought.
DIKO welcomed Russia’s stance, stressing that it was the decision of a country that is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
The party said it expected the government and ruling DISY to welcome the decision, charging that their policy encouraged foreign officials to travel to the north.
DIKO expressed hope that AKEL and DISY would realise that Akinci seeking to meet foreign dignitaries at the “so-called presidential palace” in the north only wanted to upgrade the breakaway state and not serve the reunification talks.
The fact that he did not agree to meet Lavrov in the buffer zone and his refusal to attend a German embassy reception recently over disagreement about his title “clearly demonstrated his ulterior intentions.”
EDEK chairman Marinos Sizopoulos said Russia had once more showed steady, strong, and correct behaviour towards Cyprus.
“If only Cyprus’ and the president’s irreconcilable friends and their fellow travellers in this procedure to solve the Cyprus problem had the same behaviour,” Sizopoulos said.
Lavrov’s decision was also welcomed by the Green Party and the Citizens’ Alliance.
The greens said it has always been their position that visits to the north do not contribute to the ‘good climate’ as some people claimed, but served Turkey’s objective which was the direct or indirect recognition of the breakaway state.
The alliance said Lavrov’s stance should serve as a wake up call for President Nicos Anastasiades and prompt him to change his damaging stance of tolerating foreign officials to visit the breakaway state.
DISY leader Averof Neophytou said the Russian message was yes, there is a Turkish Cypriot community but it cannot present itself as a state or as an internationally recognised entity.