Despite the Cyprus government ‘closing’ the issue of Russia’s threats over reported US military involvement on the island as claimed by Moscow, the saga continued on Sunday with a tweet from an Israeli journalist.
Amichai Stein, who is a correspondent for Israel’s broadcasting authority, and has contributed to Russian news outlet Sputnik, tweeted: #Exclusive: “Advance talks” for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to participat (sic) “In the coming months” in a 4-way summit with the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus; US is also considering a 4-way military exercise in the East-Med @kann_news”.
On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said a US delegation had inspected potential sites for bases in the region and that Washington was engaged in intensive talks with Nicosia on expanding military cooperation.
“It [Cyprus] is being drawn into US and Nato plans in the eastern Mediterranean,” she added. “In Moscow we can’t ignore the anti-Russian element in these [US] plans and in the event that they are implemented we will be forced to take countermeasures.”
“The further militarisation of the island and its involvement in the implementation of American and Nato plans will inevitably lead to dangerous and destabilising consequences for Cyprus itself,” she said.
“We have repeatedly pointed [this] out to the leadership of Cyprus … Moscow cannot but take into consideration the anti-Russian background of these schemes. We will have to take response measures in case of their implementation.”
The threat was repeated again on Thursday, not directly from Moscow but from the Russian embassy in Israel.
The Cypriot government said Friday it considered the whole issue closed after Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergi Lavrov.
The US State Department has also rejected as “absurd”, Russian suggestions of a military build-up in Cyprus, accompanied by a threat to retaliate.
A State Department spokesperson said that “in November the United States and Cyprus signed a non-binding statement of intent expressing both countries’ desire to explore opportunities to deepen bilateral security cooperation on a wide range of issues including counterterrorism, disaster response, cyber security, and anti-money laundering.”
“The Russian portrayal of this signing as plans for a “military build-up” is characteristically absurd,” the spokesperson added.
Early last month, Christodoulides after meeting his US counterpart Mike Pompeo and Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, signed a statement to promote mutual interests in combatting terrorism, strengthening security at sea and borders and promoting regional stability.
Other developments recently may have fuelled Russia’s suspicions of more US involvement in Cyprus.
Late last month President Nicos Anastasiades told an energy conference that Cyprus was expecting the US to participate in the trilateral cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel in the near future. Cyprus is also appointing a military attaché to the Republic’s embassy in Washington in the US as part of enhancing bilateral relations
It also emerged on Friday that Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Grushko will be visiting Cyprus on December 14.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the visit had been scheduled before the issue created by Zakharova’s comments.
Grushko handles Russia’s relations with the EU, Nato, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Council of Europe.
He will meet Christodoulides and delegations from the two countries will hold talks on bilateral relations, regional and international issues, and Russia-EU relations.