On Sunday, April 24, Cyprus marked the 12th anniversary of the Annan plan referendum.
In this special report, DEMETRIS PAPADOPOULOS examines the Russian government’s opposition to the settlement plan and its backing of President Tassos Papadopoulos’ efforts to have it rejected.
The reason for this stand was not Moscow’s steadfast adherence to principles on the Cyprus issue, as Nicosia’s official narrative has always maintained, but the Putin government’s desire to strengthen relations with Turkey.
Russia’s so-called principled stand on Cyprus has always had the approval of Ankara, because Moscow has always viewed closer economic and political ties with Turkey as vitally important to its interests.
From 1960 until 1990 Cyprus had been, in one way or another, under the influence of the Soviet Union, beginning with Makarios’ anti-West co-operation with Moscow and continuing after his death through the alliance of communist party AKEL with centrist DIKO and socialist EDEK.
In 1990, these bonds were suddenly severed because of the collapse of the Soviet Union. This was followed, in 1993, by the election of Glafcos Clerides to the Presidency of the Republic of Cyprus.
Clerides’ decade in office was the only decade in the history of the Republic of Cyprus during which Moscow had no influence on political developments on the island. During this window of freedom from Soviet/Russian domination, Cyprus became a member of the European Union, withdrew from the Non-Aligned Movement and assumed a pro-western direction.
Accession of Cyprus to the EU became possible because president Clerides and Greek Prime Minister Simitis made correct use of the conditions created by the enlargement of the EU in 2004. However, the accession of Cyprus to the EU was designed to be compatible with the new geopolitical equilibrium in the region.
The greatest obstacle to the accession of Cyprus to the EU was Cyprus’ national problem. That obstacle was overcome by a political understanding along three axes:
a. Solution of the Cyprus issue.
b. Accession of a re-unified Cyprus to the EU.
c. Commencement of negotiations for accession of Turkey to the EU.
With the realisation of these plans, Cyprus would finally accept belonging to the Western sphere of influence as its fate, while the solution of the Cyprus issue would resolve the cohesion challenges facing NATO in the Eastern Mediterranean. Another factor was the possibility of reforming Turkey through the EU accession procedure; though there was considerable doubt whether full accession would ever become feasible.
These policies, aimed at Cyprus acceding to the EU with a simultaneous solution of the Cyprus issue, were derailed by the co-ordinated negative influence of two important factors, one local, the other international:
• The local factor was the General Secretary of AKEL, Demetris Christofias.
• The international factor was the re-emergence of Russian influence, after the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
In 1988, Christofias succeeded Ezekias Papaioannou, who had been Secretary General of AKEL for almost four decades. Christofias had been trained in the Communist Party Institute of Social Sciences (successor of International Lenin School) in Moscow, which was a prep school for future dedicated leaders of the international communist movement. Among other graduates of the International Lenin School were communist leaders such as Nicos Zachariades, leader of the Greek communist party ΚΚΕ during the Greek Civil War, and Erich Honecker, the last Communist leader of East Germany.
Christofias was a product of the “Party pipeline” of the Communtist Party of the Soviet Union and was being groomed to take over as General Secretary of AKEL for many years before the death of Papaioannou. Christofias had assimilated Soviet culture and was religiously dedicated to the international communist movement.
In 1992, AKEL became fragmented as a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet Union. ADISOK, which had been founded by dissenting moderate members of AKEL, failed to capitalise on the circumstances and establish itself as an alternative grouping of the Left. Christofias succeeded in maintaining the cohesion of AKEL. The Party not only survived the collapse of the USSR, but also achieved an increase in its election percentages. However, when Clerides was elected President in co-operation with DIKO in 1993, he had succeeded in breaking AKEL’s former “monopoly” of co-operation with the parties of the centre.
In 2000, as Cyprus was entering the final stretch towards accession to the EU, Christofias made reconstitution of the alliance between AKEL and DIKO a goal of his strategy, with reference to the presidential elections of 2003 and the candidacy of Tassos Papadopoulos, who had succeeded the late, former president Spyros Kyprianou as leader of DIKO. These realignments in the internal political system of Cyprus coincided with the efforts to re-assert Russia as the main rival to America’s global domination.
With the pretext of Moscow’s failure to react to the direction the civil war in Yugoslavia had taken and the developments in Kosovo, the power structures of the former Soviet Union elevated Vladimir Putin to power in Russia. Putin, a former KGB agent, had made it his mission to restore the status of world superpower to Russia.
2. The Annan Plan
Within the framework of the three-axis plans for solution of the Cyprus issue, accession of Cyprus to the EU, and commencement of EU accession negotiations for Turkey, talks between Clerides and Rauf Denktash began in 1999. The aim was to achieve a settlement before accession of Cyprus to the EU. The EU was to decide on the great enlargement at the Copenhagen conference in December 2002.
In November 2002 there was a change of government in Turkey. Power went to AKP led by Tayyip Erdogan, who had wanted a solution of the Cyprus issue, accession of the whole of Cyprus to the EU, and accession talks for Turkey. In 2002, as the EU was about to decide on the accession of Cyprus, everything needed to achieve the goal of a Cyprus solution was, theoretically, in place:
• Pro-western leader Clerides was the president of Cyprus.
• In Greece, moderate, pro-European Costas Simitis was Prime Minister.
• In Turkey, Erdogan came to power and denounced the Turkey’s line that “non-solution is the solution of the Cypus issue”.
• Cyprus was ready for accession to the EU with the agreement of all the political parties.
• In the north of Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriots were demonstrating against their nationalist leader Denktash, demanding a solution of the Cyprus issue and simultaneous accession of the north to the EU.
• The EU was ready to begin accession negotiations with Turkey.
This historic opportunity was in danger of being lost because of the presidential elections to be held in Cyprus in February 2003. AKEL had decided to support the candidacy of Tassos Papadopoulos, within the framework of Christofias’ approach towards rebuilding the co-operation of AKEL with the nationalist parties of the centre.
At the beginning of November 2002, UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan, acting also in consultation with the EU(1) , was preparing to present a comprehensive plan for a solution of the Cyprus issue, in view of the Conference on EU enlargement to be held in Copenhagen in December. Greek Prime Minister Simitis sounded Christofias out to determine his position on a possible short extension of Clerides’ term until the conclusion of the negotiations. Christofias rejected the proposal because his priority was not the solution of the Cyprus issue – especially not according to Western plans – but the rebuilding of the AKEL – DIKO – EDEK alliance.
Christofias not only discouraged the stepping up of the solution initiative, but was the first to demonise the intentions of the UN General Secretary and of those “who are hiding behind his initiatives”.(2)
Before the plan had even been submitted, Christofias was warning the international community that he would reject it. He said at the time: “Let them not oblige us, by means of unacceptable plans, to say what we do not wish to say. Let them not oblige us to say the great NO. Let them not sacrifice Cyprus and her people once more on the altar of the New World Order, because we will decisively say the great NO.”(3)
Christofias had returned the Cyprus issue to the Cold War era and was facing the solution initiative as a type of US conspiracy. He also rejected the link between accession to the EU and solution of the Cyprus issue. “We are not about to sell our homeland off for the sake of accession to the EU. We are, during this period, becoming witness to British and American machinations intended to make solution of the Cyprus issue a pre-requisite for accession.”(4)
Koffi Annan’s plan was submitted on the November 11th 2002, but it did not become possible to achieve agreement on the Cyprus issue before the final decision on accession of Cyprus to the EU, because Denktash refused to co-operate and the new Turkish govenrment was not able to impose its will on him.
In December 2002, the EU decided that Cyprus would join the Union on May 1st 2004. Accession applied to the whole of the island, but application of the acquis communautaire to the northern part would be suspended pending a Cyprus settlement.
In February 2003, Tassos Papadopoulos was elected President. A month later, UN General Secretary Koffi Annan called a conference in The Hague, with the aim of achieving a settlement so that the whole of Cyprus became a member of the EU, but Denktash, once again, drove the procedure to an impasse.
President Papadopoulos expressed his deep regret for the failure of the conference. Relying on Denktash’s intransigence, he insisted on a solution based on the Annan plan, before accession of Cyprus to the EU on May 1st 2004. At the end of 2003, he also sent the UN Secretary-General a letter, asking him to take an initiative for the achievement of a solution before May 1st 2004.
In January 2004, Koffi Annan secured the consent of Erdogan to a binding negotiation procedure, which would conclude with arbitration and separate referenda before May 1st 2004. The Papadopoulos – Christofias alliance, relying on Denktash’s refusal, was not particularly perturbed.
On February 12th 2004, Annan invited Papadopoulos and Denktash to a meeting in New York, to ask if they accepted his proposal for arbitration and binding referenda. In the invitation to the meeting, it was stated that acceptance of the invitation would also signify acceptance of the proposed procedure.
The Turkish government had forced Denktash to respond to Annan’s invitation and present the following formula:
• Papadopoulos – Denktash talks in Nicosia until the end of March.
• A conference with the participation of Greece and Turkey to bridge any remaining differences.
• Arbitration by the Secretary General on disagreements that had not been bridged.
• Referral of the final plan to separate referenda, with the aim of accession of the whole of Cyprus to the EU on May 1st 2004.
Papadopoulos was taken aback when Denktash accepted the binding procedure which would conclude with arbitration and referenda, and was obliged to also accept it himself. In his first statements after making this commitment he presented the agreement as a success of his policy:
“The manner in which our side handled the issue forced the Turkish Cypriot side back to the negotiating table on the basis of the Annan Plan, which until yesterday they were referring to as ‘dead and buried’”.(5)
3. Russia and the Annan Plan
Cyprus had secured accession to the EU in 2003 because the country had become liberated from Soviet influence, as a result of the collapse of the communist regime. In 2004, the Cyprus issue was, for the first time since 1974, on track towards a solution.
At this historic juncture for the Cyprus issue, Russia appeared on the scene, with the intention to halt developments.
The heightening the UN solution drive coincided with a change of guard at the Russian foreign ministry. Sergei Lavrov, who until then had been Russia’s permanent representative at the UN, took over as Foreign Minister in February 2004.
Before Annan’s meeting with Papadopoulos and Denktash in New York, Lavrov, still permanent representative the UN, had asked the Secretary-General to clarify his intentions.(6)
Russia’s first public objection to the developments was expressed by Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Chizhov at a conference in Berlin on February 23rd 2004. Chizhov(7) called the efforts to solve the Cyprus issue with accelerated procedures a dangerous process. He said: “…attempts with one stroke to cut the “Gordian knot” have unforeseen long-term consequences here. It would be useful for those, who count on a rapid breakthrough in the settlement of such a chronic problem as Cyprus to see this.”(8)
While, in Nicosia, the first part of the process agreed in New York took shape, with talks between Papadopoulos and Denktash, in Moscow, at a news conference on March 17th 2004, new Foreign Minister Lavrov, expressed Russia’s objections, and hinted that the Greek Cypriot side had been wrong to accept the procedure.
“We had some doubts regarding the last scheme, when the idea was put forward that in case of failure in the talks between the two Cyprus parties and in the talks with participation by Greece and Turkey, the UN Secretary General would offer his solutions on the specific problems left unresolved. We doubted that the agreement on the unification of Cyprus would fully live up to the voluntary principle. In the end the parties themselves have dispelled our doubts. Both Greece and Turkey have agreed that the UN Secretary General has received that right.”(9)
On the day after Lavrov’s statement, there was a telephone communication with President Papadopoulos. The Foreign Ministry of Russia announced that it had been agreed that there was a necessity for a just and viable solution of the Cyprus issue “via the achievement of mutually acceptable agreements without external coercion.”(10)
Papadopoulos, who was not at all pleased with the direction developments were taking, had found a powerful ally in his efforts to reverse them.
Therefore, with the consent of AKEL, and also with the backing of Russia in the Security Council, Papadopoulos implemented a strategy aimed at not applying the New York agreement and avoiding the holding of the referenda. His last bastion of resistance would be the rejection of the plan by the people.
Denktash was also an accessory to these plans, because he was as vehemently opposed to the philosophy of the Annan plan as Papadopoulos. At the talks being held, both sides undermined the process with a continuous blame game. Consequently, the first phase of the procedure agreed upon in New York not only failed to yield any results, but also deepended the climate of suspicion against the West and the UN in Cyprus.
During the last week of March 2004, the procedure entered the second phase with the holding of the Burgenstock conference, with Greece and Turkey also participating. This phase of the procedure was also used to get the people to reject, rather than accept, the solution plan. Denktash refused to take part, and Papadopoulos left the conference to attend the EU Council in Brussels.
Papadopoulos refused to negotiate because an improved solution plan was not part of his aims. Instead, he was discussing in secret, with Denkash’ son, Serdar, possible ways to avoid the referenda.
With the second phase at an end, the UN Secretary-General would be obliged to proceed to the third phase, that of arbitration. Before that stage was reached, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed the country’s position with an announcement stating that Annan should submit a “balanced final document” which would, to the greatest possible extent, take the interests of both parties in Cyprus into account. The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected from the beginning the United Nations’ arbitration. It said: “We are convinced that the efforts now being made under the aegis of the UN can only be crowned with success on the condition of a voluntary consent of the Cypriots themselves – Greeks and Turks.”(11)
On March 31st, 2004, Annan submitted his final plan. President Papadopoulos’ first publicly expressed reaction, at Larnaca airport immediately after his return to Cyprus, was that the final plan was not balanced, because Annan favoured the Turkish side in his arbitration, a conclusion which was not supported by the facts.
After the completion of the agreed procedure, Papadopoulos made use of the final resort at his disposal: getting the people to reject the plan at the referendum.
The fate of the plan would be decided, to a large degree, by the position to be assumed by AKEL. AKEL had for decades adopted the internationalist approach of Soviet propaganda, which held that there was nothing to keep Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots apart, and that they could live together in peace and prosperity, if only international imperialism would leave them in peace. The rhetoric of co-existence, with the slogan “The Turks of Cyprus are not our enemies, they are our brothers”, had created a pro-solution culture among the membership of AKEL.
In 2004, AKEL faced the greatest dilemma in its history. On one hand, the party could accept the solution plan which, according to the analysis of the Party’s own Central Committee, re-unified the country and the people into one state with one sovereignty and rid it of the presence of Turkish troops, but which would also heal a wound in the flank of NATO and serve the geopolitical interests of the West. On the other hand, it could reject the plan and thereby invalidate its own political covenant, which had traditionally been in favour of coexistence.
On April 9th 2004, AKEL’s Political Bureau decided to accept the plan and referred the decision to a meeting of the Central Committee on the next day, April 10th. Before the discussion in the Central Committee had been concluded, Christofias adjourned the meeting for the next day. On the next day, the Political Bureau revised its recommendation to the Central Committee and submitted a new proposal for the postponement of the referenda, not because the plan was not an acceptable proposal, but because there were concerns about whether it could be implemented.
The UN Secretary General began procedures in order for the Security Council to pass a motion granting the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus augmented authority to ensure the implementation of the solution. Such a decision would make it difficult for AKEL to support its arguments about there being insufficient guarantees of the implementation of the solution.
At this juncture, Russia intervened for a second time.
Moscow extended a helping hand to AKEL by adopting the party’s “concerns”. Cyprus’ Foreign Minister George Iacovou, who enjoyed Christofias’ complete confidence, unexpectedly visited Moscow on the day before the matter was to be discussed in the UN Security Council, and had talks with Lavrov.
Lavrov made statements repeating Russia’s long-standing rhetoric about a solution based on the UN resolutions which would be the result of the free will of both parties, “without imposing on them any solutions”. He said: “We know that the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has concerns about security guarantees within the framework of a comprehensive settlement. We are ready to examine ways of removing those concerns which will be acceptable to all, above all to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.”(12)
On April 22nd, Russia, for the first time since the end of the Cold War, vetoed a motion of the Security Council – the one which would have granted UNFICYP augmented authority to help guarantee implementation of the Cyprus settlement provisions.
After the vote in the Security Council, Christofias held a press conference in Nicosia and announced that AKEL says No to the referendum, because the Party’s requests had been ignored. “We want specific measures which will guarantee the implementation of the solution so that we can secure a ‘Yes’ from a large majority of the people, so that the implementation of a difficult solution will be cemented by the necessary practical measures and guarantees”.(13)
Some conclusions on AKEL’s decision:
Tassos Papadopoulos constructed his strategy for rejection of the plan in co-operation with Russia. Russia had emotional and other influence over Christofias which Moscow must have applied at the critical moment to tip the scales in favour of “No”. Moreover, AKEL’s behaviour was similar to the 1977 precedent when, after Soviet intervention, the party changed its initial position in favour of the American-Canadian settlement plan, and finally rejected it.
Papadopoulos’ “alliance” with Moscow to achieve the total discrediting of the plan could not have worked without the participation of Christofias. Minister of Transport Kikis Kazamias, who disagreed and resigned from his post in the Papadopoulos government, bore witness to the fact that, when he met Papadopoulos to submit his resignation, the President revealed to him that he had done nothing on his own, but had acted in co-operation with Christofias.
Christofias himself, speaking on a Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation radio programme some months later, stated that “our only disagreement was the way in which the President directed his address in favour of a ‘NO’ vote to the Cypriot people”.(14)
But what were Russia’s motives in preventing a solution of the Cyprus issue?
With her veto in the Security Council, Russia regained her status as a world power and registered her interest in the Eastern Mediterranean. Without a solution of the Cyprus issue, Turkey’s aspirations of EU membership would be damaged, and the country would remain a potential Russian partner.
Russia’s motives were explained on a radio discussion on the day after the exercise of Russia’s veto by Alexander Dugin, who “is something akin to a guru of Russia’s new and aggressive imperialism, whose esoteric geopolitical visions boil down to Russian dominance stretching from Asia to Europe as an opposite pole to the hated liberalism of the US-dominated Western world”.(15)
Dugin said: “Russia’s veto has geopolitics background. I want to draw your attentions, this solution is prepared by two Anglo- Saxon countries’ initiatives – USA and Britain and it carries an aim to reinforce unipolar society in the world especially in Mediterranean. This solution is an initiative to solve the Cyprus issue according to an American scenario.”
According to Dugin: “National forces in Turkey, are gradually getting away from USA and EU accession perspectives. Globalization and a unipolar world are two threats against Turkey’s sovereignty. The Northern Cyprus issue and the Kurdistan issue are becoming most caustic for Turkey. Russia follows an advised and pioneering geopolitical approach with the veto decision. This veto is useful for Northern Cyprus and Rauf Denktash.”
In the same discussion, Dugin stated that “Russia has supported the Greek side up to now, but now there is the possibility to support Turkey because the Cyprus issue and the Caucasus issue have similar features.”(16)
Dugin’s analysis was validated by the events that followed, which confirmed that Moscow had exercised a veto motivated by her own interests in co-operation with Turkey, and not for the sake of Cyprus. As Russian Ambassador Peter Stegny stated in August 2004, the veto had been an indirect desire of Turkey.(17)
Speaking to Turkish reporters on September 1st 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the following about the Russian veto in the Security Council: “I can assure you that it [the veto] did not meet with a negative reaction, including from the Turkish leadership. There are arguments for and against. This veto was not directed against Turkish Cypriots.”(18)
Some months later, speaking to Turkish businessmen in Istanbul, Putin said that Moscow vetoed the Security Council motion after having previously informed the Turkish side.(19)
The Turkish government was itself facing problems inside the country because of its acceptance of the Annan plan. The National Security Council, which was at the time still a powerful body, had made public its own reservations about the plan.(20)
Researcher Sinan OĞAN who has studied Russian policy in relation to the 2004 veto concludes that “the Turkish government carefully played the ‘Russia card’ and wanted the Greeks’ ‘No’ to escape the Cyprus issue and open its way to the EU”.(21)
Turkey, having been informed about the secret talks Papadopoulos and Denktash were holding about jointly rejecting the plan, expected the Greek Cypriot “No” and was anticipating to gain from it. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül stated that if the Greek Cypriots voted ‘No’ in the referendum, he would himself lead a campaign to achieve recognition for the “TRNC”.(22)
Prime Minister Erdogan, in an interview for the BBC, issued a warning that, in such a case (a Greek Cypriot ‘No’), the US and the EU should reconsider their position towards the Turkish Cypriots.(23
It seems that the Turkish government had assurances from the EU that, if it supported the plan:
• Decisions would be taken towards relieving the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots.
• In any case, accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU would begin.
The EU fulfilled its promise to commence accession negotiations, and began procedures for the approval of a Regulation securing direct trade for the Turkish Cypriots.(24)
Immediately after the ‘Yes’ vote from the Turkish Cypriots and the ‘No’ vote from the Greek Cypriots in the referendum of April 24th 2004, Turkey insistently raised the demand for ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. This issue became a major bone of contention between the Republic of Cyprus and the European Commission, and was finally frozen. Erdogan would go on to state that the EU had cheated Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots.
Straight after the referendum in Cyprus, Vladimir Putin mounted a friendship offensive on Turkey, along the axis of economic co-operation between the two countries. Within the framework of this opening towards Turkey, Moscow immediately and from the beginning supported the demands for ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. Putin is the only foreign leader who has publicly and repeatedly supported the end of the economic isolation of theTurkish Cypriots.
In the first official reaction of the Russian Foreign Ministry to the result of the referendum in Cyprus, press officer Alexander Yakovenko stated that: “raising the level of economic development in the north of [Cyprus] would help overcome existing discrepancies in the socioeconomic levels of the two communities”(25)
On June 14th 2004 the Islamic States Conference was held in Istanbul. Lavrov attended, and met “Prime Minister” Mehmet Ali Talat and “Foreign Minister” Serdar Denktash. It was the first meeting ever between a Russian Foreign Minister and “TRNC” officials.
Turkish Foreign Minister Gül, referring to the talks he had had with Lavrov on the sidelines of the conference, stated that Lavrov “is opposed to the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and will contribute to efforts to bring it to an end.”(26)
In 2004, Russia began to put into practice the same policy as the Soviet Union had put into practice after 1974: A policy of using the Cyprus issue to undermine Western interests and utilise conflict in Cyprus to win Turkey over, which was the main strategic goal. Cutting Turkey off from the EU would open massive prospects for the ambitious plans of the Putin regime to create a Eurasian Union under Russia’s own hegemony.
In the years that followed, there was a spectacular improvement in relations between Russia and Τurkey. In December 2004, Putin visited Turkey. It was the first visit of a Russian head of state to Turkey in 32 years.
The meeting between Putin and Erdogan, scheduled to last one hour, eventually lasted two-and-a-half hours. Analysis by US Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, based on information he had on the content of the talks between Putin and Erdogan, was that Putin’s goal was to detach Turkey from the West.
The message Putin tried to get across to Erdogan was that: “The Turks should forget their ‘EU fantasy’; if they join the EU and implement Schengen criteria, Russia will cut off trade and reduce the volume of visits (including tourism), so they shouldn’t implement Schengen. Turkey is bending its neck to the EU. It doesn’t need to. Putin stands fully behind Turkey, so Turkey can stand up to the EU”.(27)
Everything Putin said to Erdogan is in line with Alexander Dugin’s analysis and his conclusion that the reasons for the Russian veto had been geopolitical. Dugin took part in the mission accompanying Putin to Turkey. According to information cited by the US Ambassador, Putin had sent Dugin to Ankara before his visit, to discuss a Russian merger with the Turkish Eurasian block with General Tuncer Kılınç. Dugin is alleged to have had connections to the Deep State in Turkey. Kılınç had been General Secretary of the National Security Council in the period 2001-2003 and was, later, among the persons who were convicted in the trials following the Ergenekon affair.
The US Ambassador reported: “As we have heard from a source close to retired NSC SecGen and ‘Eurasia’ promoter General Kılınç, Putin sent ‘Eurasia’ architect Alexander Dugin to visit Kılınç preceding Putin’s arrival to consolidate a Turkish ‘Eurasia’ bloc.”
In parallel to his Turkish connections, Dugin also had links in Greece, to extreme right wing and left wing organisations which had anti-Western ideology in common. Dugin sent a lengthy letter of support to the chairman of Golden Dawn when he was being prosecuted, while he maintained relations with personalities of the Left, from Mikis Theodorakis to Nicos Kotzias, who would later become Foreign Minister of the SYRIZA government.
Respected German newspaper Die Zeit published an article based on 700 e-mails clandestinely extracted from the account of Georgi Gawrisch, secretary to the Russian embassy in Athens who, “as evidenced by his electronic correspondence, had been trying to set up a support network in Greece against the EU and the US”.
According to the article, Gawrisch maintained an extensive network of contacts in Greece, obviously aimed at the creation of a pro-Russian and simultaneously anti-European “platform”, financed by oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. Malofeev is on the list of persons to whom entrance to Europe is forbidden, as part of sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine.
Journalist Demetris Constantakopoulos, who had been Moscow correspondent for Athens News Agency in Moscow, is numbered among Dugin’s collaborators in Greece. When Dugin visited Greece in April 2013, he and Constantakopoulos held joint interviews. According to Die Zeit, Dugin “explained to the Greeks his geopolitical views, and expressed the position that Greece must choose between Eurasia and the naval powers (the US, Britain and ΝΑΤΟ).”(28)
Constantakopoulos was among the frontline of a group of journalists in Greece that fervently supported the hard-line policy of Tassos Papadopoulos in the Cyprus issue. His book “The seizure of Cyprus” presents the peace process in Cyprus as part of a Western conspiracy.
Despite his anti-Turkish rhetoric in his writings, Constantakopoulos, a Russian speaker who could access information about Dugin’s activities, completely ignored the view that Russia’s motive for not favouring a solution in Cyprus had been to boost relations with Turkey, by severing the links between Turkey and the EU.
With the passage of time, the Turkish government realised that the Greek Cypriot ‘No’ had not brought Turkey the anticipated results. At the first Russian-Turkish summit in January 2005, Erdogan asked Putin to telephone Kofi Annan and ask the latter to once again submit his plan. Putin responded, but in practice Russia did not show any interest in pushing for a solution, obviously in order not to create any prospect of Turkey turning towards the EU.
In his statements, Putin took a stand in favour of ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots. Speaking to Turkish businessmen who accompanied the Turkish Prime Minister, he stated: “As for the problem of Cyprus, I can say that we of course discussed this topic, and I would like to stress that Russia supports the efforts of the UN General Secretary – and I recently had the opportunity to discuss this topic with him by telephone – aimed at regulating the Cyprus problem, including his plan to develop economic relations with Northern Cyprus, to remove the blockade that has been in force there for many years.”(29)
Putin’s statements caused a sudden chill in Cyprus. Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides stated that Putin’s statements had been misquoted. (The above excerpt is from the Kremlin’s own web site).
President Papadopoulos intervened, making statements to dispel rising doubts about Russia’s position on the Cyprus issue: “I think that the support Russia gives us is based on principles and we will of course be informed about the visit. I think that Russia will continue to hold the same position.”(30)
Six months later, Erdogan and Putin met in Sochi. In statements after his talks with the Turkish delegation, Putin again brought up the isolation issue: “The first thing we must do is to finally terminate the economic isolation of one part of the island, and create the pre-requisites for normal interaction between the two parts of the island, and this will be the basis for full regularisation to the benefit of all the island’s inhabitants.”(31)
In Cyprus, Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides repeated that the Russian position was “based on principles and on respect for legality, and that is the manner in which I interpret any statements made by Mr. Putin in reference to the Cyprus issue”.(32)
Minister of Foreign Affairs Georgie Iacovou stated that Putin made this statement because he had been misled by Erdogan: “The Russian President spoke of relieving the ‘economic isolation’, a term used immediately before by Tayyip Erdogan. And I suppose it was one of Mr. Erdogan’s principal aims to put some phrases in Mr. Putin’s mouth.”
Iacovou went as far as to say that Lavrov’s position counted for more than that of Putin. “I have no doubt that Russian policy on the Cyprus issue is not about to change. It is the one clearly explained to us by Mr. Lavrov on his visit to Cyprus. […] Russian President Vladimir Putin had stated that though he is himself concerned with the Cyprus issue, the person actually handling the Cyprus issue on behalf of the Russian federation is Mr. Lavrov,” (33) he said.
In January 2005, President Papadopoulos visited Moscow. While Russia was officially hosting the Cypriot President at the Kremlin, Erdogan telephoned Putin and requested the support of Russia in the solution of the Cyprus issue and for ending the embargo on Turkish Cypriot trade.
Erdogan’s office made an announcement about that conversation, which was reported by Turkish Daily News as follows: “During a telephone conversation with the Russian president on Monday, Erdoğan expressed Ankara’s commitment to finding a solution to Cyprus’ three-decade partition between its Turkish and Greek communities, the statement said. Putin, the statement said, confirmed that the key role should belong to the United Nations for a resolution and that securing a dialogue between the two [Cypriot] parties should be a priority. Russia will continue taking measures to assist in the economic improvement of Turkish Cyprus, Putin said, according to the statement.”(34)
In the statements he made after his meeting with Papadopoulos, Putin was exceptionally reserved and limited himself to taking only a very general position. He said: “Russia has always played an important role in the Cyprus issue and will continue to play one in the future, within the context of institutions created within the framework of the United Nations.”
In his reply, Papadopoulos expressed his thanks because “for decades, Russia has been a steadfast supporter of the Cyprus cause, in the United Nations, in bilateral relations, and in all international forums”.
Papadopoulos made separate statements in which he said that he had concluded that “there is no change in Russia’s positions on the Cyprus issue” and that he had also discussed with President Putin “the matter of the alleged isolation of the Turkish Cypriots, and I explained to him the positions of the Cyprus government with facts and figures proving that there is no issue of economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and to the extent that restrictions exist, these are self-imposed by the Turkish Cypriots themselves.”(35)
Papadopoulos did not state how Putin reacted to the explanations he had supplied. However, in a press conference at the Kremlin a week later, responding to a question about Cyprus, Putin said: “Concerning our policy with regard to Cyprus, it has not changed, but we very much want our policy to be balanced and we would like all the participants in the settlement process — Turkey, the northern part of Cyprus, Greece and the Republic of Cyprus — to have confidence in Russia’s work on the international stage and with regard to the settlement process in Cyprus in particular.
We will continue to work with the UN Secretary General. We think that only the island’s inhabitants themselves can determine their own future, and we hope that compromises will be reached that are acceptable for both the north and the south of Cyprus. We think that northern Cyprus is also demonstrating quite clearly its desire to reach a settlement, and this should be encouraged. In any case, this would be fully justified as far as joint economic activity is concerned, without upsetting the balance of interests and without upsetting our relations with Greece, with whom we have had very close and friendly relations throughout the centuries, or with Cyprus as a state.”(36)
Russia’s position on the Cyprus issue, as it was formed after the 2004 referendum, was as follows:
– Talks under the auspices of the United Nations, based on the international organisation’s Resolutions, and involving the Security Council, where Russia plays a decisive part.
– Any agreement must be a result of the free will of both sides in Cyprus, without interventions. That is, without involvement of the West and of the EU, and without time-frames.
This “invention”, which is really aimed at the preservation of the status quo, has become established in the common consensus among Greek Cypriots as the most effective safeguard against the “Western conspiracy” to impose a solution of the Cyprus issue.
The rhetoric about a Cypriot-owned solution process based on the UN resolutions, without time-frames and arbitration, was a Soviet device which had its roots in the immediate post-1974 era and which was revived by Russia after the 2004 referendum.
Adoption of this rhetoric by the government, AKEL and by the nationalist centre parties, gave it the appearance of a nationally correct strategy, to such an extent that the whole political system and the mass media became mouthpieces for Russian propaganda.
The position that Russia always follows a policy based on principles on the Cyprus issue was consolidated in the same manner. This position is factually correct. The distortion exists in the concealment of the fact that these principles do not serve the interests of Cyprus, but those of Russia, by making sure the status quo is maintained indefinitely.
The reason Papadopoulos was never disturbed by Russia’s positions on the Cyprus issue and always strove to provide an excuse for Moscow’s overtures to Turkey was not because he did not understand what was happening. It was because he had a principle in common with Russia: the status quo in Cyprus is the best solution.
Papadopoulos had held secret meetings with Denktash to secure continuation of the status quo. He had no qualms about co-operating with Russia, which was considered Cyprus’ most reliable ally, for achieving this end.
Some conclusions about Russian policy on the Cyprus issue during the period immediately following the Annan plan and until the end of Papadopoulos’ term in 2008:
I. It is clear that Russia had opposed the solution plan, not because it was not good, or because it was less good for one side than for the other, but because it ran against her own strategic interests.
II. Russia desired Turkey as an economic partner for herself. She had no reason to assist political or economic approach of Turkey to the EU.
III. Solution of the Cyprus issue and accession of Cyprus to the EU would reinforce NATO influence in the region. Russia, engaged in preparing a new Cold War, had no reason to assist the West. Moscow had not been able to obstruct the accession of Cyprus to the EU, but was able to frustrate the West’s broader plans for solution combined with accession.
IV. Russia exercised her power of veto in the Security Council to register her return to the international arena as a superpower. However, before exercising the veto, she secured the assent of Turkey. Moscow’s support of the demand for ending the economic isolation of the Turkish Cypriots was part of the arrangement.
V. Russia, like the Soviet Union previously, never assumed a position on any aspect of the Cyprus issue which would disturb Turkey. On the contrary, Putin has many times expressed himself in a manner that would be satisfactory to Turkey.
VI. A juxtaposition of Putin’s positions on the Cyprus issue when speaking in the presence of Erdogan on one hand and in the presence of Papadopoulos on the other, is sufficiently enlightening on the question of which of the two is the more important interlocutor as far as the Russian state is concerned.
1. Statements of Extension Commissioner Gunther Verheugen to the Joint Cyprus – EU Parliamentart Committee, 05/11/2002.
2. Speaker of the House of Representatives – Cyprus Issue – Solution plan, Cyprus News Agency – by Fanitsa Zannettou, Nicosia 2/11/2002.
3. Speaker of the House of Representatives – Journal – Cyprus – EU, Cyprus News Agency – by Fanitsa Zannettou, Nicosia 6/11/2002
4. Speaker of the House of Representatives – Journal – Cyprus – EU, Cyprus News Agency – by Fanitsa Zannettou, Nicosia 6/11/2002
5. “Statement by the President of the Republic”, Cyprus News Agency, Apostolis Zoupaniotis, New York 13/2/2004.
6. “Alvaro de Soto – Cyprus issue – Security Council”, Cyprus News Agency – Apostolis Zoupaniotis – United Nations 7/2/2004.
7. He had served in Cyprus and had been Russia’s special envoy on the Cyprus issue.
8. “Russia’s Vision of a European Security Policy Partner: ESDP, NATO or Somebody Else?”.
9. Transcript of Remarks and Answers to Questions from Russian and Foreign Media by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Press Conference at Russian MFA Press Center, Moscow, March 17, 2004.
10. “President Papadopoulos – Russian Foreign Minister”, CNA – by Fanitsa Zannettou, Nicosia 18/3/2004.11.
11. “Statement by Alexander Yakovenko, the Spokesman of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regarding Cyprus Negotiations”. 632-30-03-2004
12. Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Following Talks with Cyprus Minister of Foreign Affairs Giorgos Iakovou, Moscow, April 20, 2004.
13. “AKEL SG – Press conference – “No”, Cyprus News Agency – by Fanitsa Zannettou – Nicosia 22/4/2004.
14. Interview granted to CyBC’s Channel Three, 2/10/2004. Reported on the next day in Politis newspaper in the article “Christofias a puppet of Tassos”, 3/10/2004.
15. “Russia-Greece: Caught in the web of the Russian ideologues”, Die Zeit, 7/2/2015.
16. Sinan OĞAN, Russian Federation’s Cyprus Politics (6/2/2005), Turkish Centre for International Relations & Strategic Analysis.
17. Sinan OĞAN, Russian Federation’s Cyprus Politics (6/2/2005), Turkish Centre for International Relations & Strategic Analysis.
18. Interview with the Turkish Media, September 1, 2004, 00:00 Sochi.
19. “Russia – Putin – Cyprus issue – UN SG”, CNE – Novosti, Nicosia 11/1/2005.
20. “Turkey – National Security Council – Statement”, CNE – East – Ankara 5/4/2004.
21. Sinan OĞAN, Russian Federation’s Cyprus Politics (6/2/2005), Turkish Centre for International Relations & Strategic Analysis.
22. “Gul: If Greeks Refuse Plan Than TRNC Must be Recognized”, Today’s Zaman, April 09, 2004.
23. “Turkey: conditional acceptance of the Annan plan”, BBC Greek Service, 3/4/2004.
24. “Erdogan states ‘The EU has cheated Turkey’”, To Vima,, 23/7/2011.
25. The statement was made public on Radio Free Europe and accredited to INTAR-TASS http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1143148.html
26. “Islamic Conference – Gul – Upgrading Turcish Cypriots”, CNE – Maria Miles, Istanbul 16/6/2004.
27. PUTIN VISITS TURKEY: RUSSIA BIDS TO TURN TURKEY FROM WEST; TURKS KEEPING OPTIONS, December 10, 2004, Wikileaks
28. “Russia-Greece: Caught in the web of the Russian ideologues”, Die Zeit, 7/2/2015.
29. Concluding Remarks after a Meeting with Representatives of Turkish Business Circles, January 11, 2005, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/22776.
30. President of the Republic – Russia – Cyprus _Erdogan, CNE – Fanitsa Zannettou, Nicosia 11/1/2005.
31. Press Statements and Answers to Questions following Russian-Turkish Talks, July 18, 2005, 17:21 Bocharov Ruchei, Sochi.
32. Spokesman – Putin statements, CNE – By Fanitsa Zannettou – Nicosia 19/7/2005.
33. Foreign Minister – Russian policy on the Cyprus issue, CNE – by Fanitsa Zannettou – Larnaca 19/7/2005 18:56
34. “Erdoğan seeks Putin’s support in Cyprus dispute’, Turkish Daily News, 25/1/22006.
35. “The President of the Republic meets with the President of the Russian Federation”, Press and Information Office, Communiques, 23/01/2006.
36. Transcript of the Press Conference for the Russian and Foreign Media January 31, 2006, 09:53 Circular Hall, The Kremlin, Moscow.