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‘Relationship with Russia has changed but hopefully not forever’

Υπουργός Εξωτερικών και Επίτροπος
File photo: Ioannis Kasoulides

Cyprus’ relationship with Russia has changed but hopefully not forever, Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides told Bloomberg – adding that that the island has aligned itself fully with the West.

Kasoulides was asked about the significant changes in the region following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the heightened tensions between Greece and Turkey over the Aegean islands.

“We have aligned fully with the West because we belong to the West, we are members of the EU – therefore we belong to the West and we will never accept that we will be different to the rest of the partners,” the foreign minister said on Monday, adding “we want to be credible partners within the EU”.

He emphasised that Cyprus is very sensitive on issues of territorial integrity and sovereignty – both of which have been damaged in Ukraine.

“So our position could not be any other than that which aligns with our partners in the EU, the US and others – not only in condemning the Russian invasion but also participating in the sanctions that have been agreed and that’s what we are following,” Kasoulides explained.

He was further asked about the ongoing tensions between Greece and Turkey, saying that he is very concerned by Ankara’s bellicose narrative.

“The Turkish army is in our country, it’s present on the island, and we fear that in the case of any conflict in the Aegean Sea will affect us directly because we will be used as the weakest point of the whole story,” he said.

The foreign minister further criticised Ankara for not aligning itself with the West’s sanctions against Moscow.

“With Mr Erdogan and his threats, what we are saying is that they [Turkey] have not participated in the sanctions against Russia – on the contrary they are profiting from the non-participation and there is another issue: there have been some agreements in Sochi, these should be scrutinised and examined,” he said.

Kasoulides’ comments came soon after the US announced that it will lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, in place since 1987. That drew strong condemnation from Turkey, which warned of an arms race on the island.

Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said last week the move is necessary for Cyprus as the National Guard is heavily dependent on Russian arms acquired in the 1990s.

Kasoulides also sought to emphasise that bolstering Cyprus’ defensive capabilities is not directed against anyone.

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