By Jean Christou
Cyprus’ role as a force of stability in the region, its support in the fight against terrorism, and its efforts to help normalise relations between Moscow and Brussels were central to discussions between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Cypriot counterpart Ioanis Kasoulides on Wednesday.
Kasoulides said the current status of EU-Russia relations did not benefit anyone. “I hope that there will be enough progress to allow for the re-evaluation of the situation, and for constructive and mutually beneficial re-engagement,” he said.
Lavrov said Russia welcomed Cyprus’ efforts aimed at normalising relations between Moscow and Brussels, saying the current situation was counterproductive. He said he was convinced that a restoration of relations “will only benefit the people of our continent achieve progress in the common area of security,” he said.
He also thanked Nicosia for its statement made after the recent shooting down of the Russian SU-24 by a Turkish F-16 Russian aircraft on a mission over Syria, which Kasouldies added was “unjustified”.
“We are witnessing dramatic moments in our neighbourhood and we concur with Russia on the need to coordinate and unite forces in order to address common challenges such as terrorism,” Kasoulides added.
The downing of the Russian jet by Turkey was a serious blow to international efforts to combat ISIS, he said. Kasoulides said Lavrov’s visit had come at a time “when our values are increasingly under attack by terrorists”.
“In this respect, Russia’s commitment in fighting Daesh [ISIS] has been welcomed and we reconfirmed our solidarity and readiness to assist international efforts in combating terrorism”.
He said Cyprus was ready to offer any humanitarian assistance Russia might need for the evacuation of Russian citizens, whenever necessary, from the Middle East. “Russia and Cyprus are very good friends and friends do what friends have to do,” he said.
Lavrov expressed Russia`s appreciation for Cyprus` support in fighting terrorism and its stance after the downing of the Russian aircraft by Turkey.
“We consider Turkey`s action to down the Russian aircraft as aggressive,” he said, adding that Russia-Turkey relations could not now be “business as usual” though he indicated that he would not refuse to meet his Turkish counterpart on the margins of the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers due to take place in Belgrade.
“We will not refuse this proposal. We will meet with the Turkish FM we will hear what he has to say” he said. Lavrov also hinted that there appeared to be efforts to undermine the political process which started in Vienna in the framework of the Syria Support Group, some quarters were trying “to enable Islamists to thrive,” he said.