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Our View: We should brace ourselves for more unhelpful comments from Russia

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova

NOBODY should have been surprised to read last week’s statement by the spokeswoman of the foreign ministry of the Russian Federation Maria Zakharova. It was perfectly in line with the Russian government’s policy that is aimed at keeping the Cyprus problem going, because a settlement is seen to be against its national interests.

A day after the completion of the intensive round of talks Ms Zakharova issued a statement that was anything but supportive of the peace effort. She brought up the Annan plan, saying that Russia would “judge progress at the talks by their concrete results”, and took a swipe at the Western countries for backing the peace process. “We consider some of our Western partners’ persistent attempts to speed up negotiations and push for a solution at all costs to be unacceptable,” she said, adding that “this is not right.”

Interestingly, now that President Putin has kissed and made up with President Erdogan, Ms Zakharova has decided to direct her fire at “our Western partners”, who have done little more than support the process and encourage a sense of urgency by the two leaders, now conditions were favourable for a deal. Back in March, well before Russia and Turkey had restored relations, Ms Zakharova tried to stir local opposition to the talks by blaming Erdogan who was “openly inciting the Turkish Cypriots to take a hard and uncompromising line during the negotiations” and “grossly interfering in the negotiating process”.

Now that Russia-Turkey relations have been restored and she cannot possibly blame Erdogan, she decided to rally the anti-settlement forces in Cyprus by bringing up the Annan plan and the alleged pressure of hated Western countries. It was disingenuous as everyone knows that the peace process is being driven by the two leaders, without any interference from other countries. The implication that our EU partners and the US, which have fully backed the process, were pressuring us while, Russia that has never done anything practical to support efforts for a settlement was defending our interests, is just too ridiculous for words.

Is it a coincidence that Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus, Stanislav Osadchiy, regularly has meetings with the Greek Cypriot party leaders who are opposed to a settlement and issues unhelpful statements? Apart from helping turn the guarantees into a big issue, Osadchiy also had the nerve to inform us that Russia would oppose a settlement guaranteed by Nato, as if it were any of his country’s business.

The reality is that Russia has always backed and encouraged the anti-settlement parties (it even invites their leaders to Moscow for visits), which always applaud Moscow’s efforts to undermine the talks and sow doubts about a settlement. Nicolas Papadopoulos immediately took the bait offered by Ms Zakharova’s statements and demanded Russian involvement in the talks. Would Papadopoulos have demanded a role for Russia in the talks if there were the remotest chance Moscow would have backed the drive for a settlement?

A settlement that would heal divisions in Nato and offer an alternative source of natural gas to Turkey is certainly not in Russia’s interests which is why we should brace ourselves for plenty more unhelpful statements from Ms Zakharova and Osadchiy.

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