IT APPEARS not even the leader of Cyprus’ biggest party is exempt from being publicly censured by the Russian embassy in Nicosia when he expresses an opinion that does not meet with Moscow’s approval. This is what Disy chief Averof Neophytou found out on Monday after saying in an interview with Phileleftheros that Russia was forging closer relations with Turkey for political and energy reasons and it was “reasonable that Russia would pursue her national interests.”
He also stated the obvious, which many people in Cyprus refuse to accept in the case of Russia. “No country would support the interests of another country at the expense of its own,” he said in an attempt to explain that Russian support for the Cyprus problem could not be the same as in the past. Neophytou used diplomatic – almost oblique – language to make his point, while acknowledging the “long-standing support we had from Russia” and seeking the continuation of “friendly relations.”
It was nothing more than a very carefully-worded expression of his views about the situation in our region yet the Russian embassy felt obliged to respond. It repeated its commitment to “the achievement of a compromise with regard to the reunification of the island, for the benefit of the two communities,” before informing us, “our contacts with Ankara serve the Cypriots as these make it possible for us to convey our stance directly to the Turkish leadership.”
The embassy did not confine itself to these platitudes. It implied Neophytou was serving other interests by saying: “Some partners of the Cyprus Republic would like to break up the relations between Russia and Cyprus so as to avert the involvement of Russia in the eastern Mediterranean.” Not only did the embassy rebuke Neophytou for expressing an opinion it also implied he had ulterior motives. It is astonishing the Russian ambassador feels he has the right to publicly reprimand a party leader and attribute motives to him.
He interferes in this crude way because we have given him the right to do so. He regularly interferes in domestic politics without ever raising a stir. If the US embassy ever issued an announcement responding to comments by a Cypriot party leader – comments against the US are often extremely offensive – all the politicians and newspaper columnists would be up in arms, demanding the government declared the American ambassador persona non grata. Akel would probably be organising demonstrations outside the US embassy.
The Russian ambassador, in contrast, can openly rebuke a party leader, attribute ignoble motives to him, mislead us about his country’s relations with Turkey and utter platitudes about the Cyprus problem – calculated not to offend Turkey – while boasting about Moscow’s principled stance on Cyprus. He is not to blame for showing Cyprus so little respect because we are always ready to bow to Russia.