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Our View: We’ve not heard the last of our Russian arms to Ukraine

Foreign Minister, Ioannis Kasoulides

In two of the television debates of presidential candidates, Disy candidate, Averof Neophytou said the US lifted the arms embargo on Cyprus only after the candidate of the so-called centre parties, Nicos Christodoulides, had left the foreign ministry. He claimed Christodoulides had been unwilling to satisfy the main condition set by US Congress for the complete lifting of the embargo, banning the docking of Russian ships in Cyprus ports.

The former foreign minister denied this was the case, claiming the embargo was lifted after EU sanctions banning the docking of Russian ships at all EU ports, and not through any decision of the Cyprus government. His successor, Ioannis Kasoulides, in a television interview last week said Christodoulides had got his facts wrong. As foreign minister, Kasoulides said he had stopped the docking of Russian ships in Cyprus ports at the beginning of March, when he turned down a request for the docking of five ships. The decision for sanctions was taken by the EU a month later and enforced on April 16.

This would suggest Christodoulides was not very keen on satisfying the condition set by the US for the complete lifting of the arms embargo, probably because he was of the view that the Republic should be on good terms with both the Americans and the Russians. After all, it was not as if Cyprus had huge funds available and was in a hurry to boost its defence capability with the latest weapon systems. For Kasoulides, however, a West-looking politician without Moscow affiliations pandering to both sides, once Russia invaded Ukraine, was not an option.

The quickness with which the embargo had been lifted by the US may also have been connected to Washington’s efforts to persuade the Cyprus government to send its Russian-made guns to Ukraine. The possibility was raised a few months ago, with the Cyprus government rejecting the idea for the justifiable reason that it could not surrender its defence equipment while facing Turkey’s occupation troops. It was not the end of it.

A couple of weeks ago the issue was back in the news again. Again, the government was at pains to explain that this was not an option for the reasons already mentioned, with President Anastasiades also entering the fray. While he clearly stated that no National Guard weapons would be sent to Ukraine, he left a window open – if the US was willing to replace these guns then perhaps the government would consider it.

This was probably a diplomatic way of rejecting the idea. Even if the US was willing to satisfy Cyprus’ condition, the time it would take to do so would render the exercise pointless. The supply of weapons to Ukraine is considered a matter of great urgency for the US. We await to see what happens because we doubt this is the last we have heard about the transfer of National Guard arms.


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