By Jean Christou
MOSCOW and Nicosia pledged on Wednesday to broaden economic ties during a visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov which was described by the Cypriot leadership as being “much more than just ceremonial”.
Topics discussed in meetings with President Nicos Anastasiades and Foreign Minister Ioanis Kasoulides included the Cyprus issue, bilateral trade relations, Syria, Russia-EU relations and the current crisis between Anakara and Moscow.
Anastasiades said the two men had “reaffirmed their common positions on critical issues”. He said the main aim was to continue and deepen the dialogue and promote bilateral and regional cooperation. Anastasiades later tweeted: “Had a great meeting with Russian FM #Lavrov. #Cyprus #Russia cooperation stays strong @mfa_russia”
Lavrov said after his meeting with Kasoulides that among the issues discussed with the Cypriot leadership was the expansion of economic relations under the joint action plan 2015-2017 which was agreed in Moscow in February this year during the visit there by Anastasiades.
“We have good prospects in high-tech and growing investments in line with Cyprus’ plans on privatisation,” Lavrov said. “There are good prospects with Cyprus to broaden trade ties,” he added, and referred to the interest shown by Russian companies in doing business in Cyprus.
Citing palace sources after the morning meeting at the presidential palace, the Cyprus News Agency reported that the two men had also discussed energy, and EU-Russia relations. The same sources said that they also discussed how Cyprus and Russia, despite the EU embargo on Moscow, could, through the creation of joint ventures, still do business together.
Kasoulides, referring to the economic cooperation between Cyprus and Russia said: “Both governments have reiterated today their willingness to further expand the already broad institutional framework of cooperation and to work towards the enhancement of these mutually beneficial relations.”
Business interaction, investments, tourism, education and cultural exchanges, would be supported and promoted “in a systematic manner”, he said. Russia is already the island’s second-biggest source of tourists.
On the Cyprus issue, Lavrov made it clear that guarantors – a red line for the Turkish side – should be abolished under a settlement but did say a solution would have to be mutually acceptable. He also commented on the fact that in the past, outside mediation had not brought a solution.
Lavrov said a Cyprus settlement should ensure that the island’s security is guaranteed on “a very new basis” and that this basis should be agreed by both Cyprus communities “and once this agreement is found it is the UNSC [UN Security Council] which will play the main role”. Russia, along with France, Britain, the US and China is a permanent member of the UNSC.
Kasoulides said the Greek Cypriot side “particularly highlighted that the United Nations Security Council has a crucial role to play, not only in endorsing a possible solution but in taking those necessary decisions for its comprehensive implementation.”
Anastasiades described Lavrov’s visit as very timely in view of developments in the Cyprus problem. “Russia is very honestly committed to continue the efforts of the international community, of the Security Council of the UN to make sure that the relevant resolutions on Cyprus are implemented and that these resolutions serve the basis for the two communities in Cyprus to reach a mutually acceptable decision which will not be ambiguous, which will really aim at implementing all the principles of UN decisions,” the president said.
Lavrov arrived on the island on Tuesday night by private jet and left on Wednesday afternoon.