President Anastasiades’ visit to Moscow – theses and antitheses
If we take into account the comment and reactions generated by the visit of President Anastasiades to Moscow, the first of an EU leader while the crisis in Ukraine continues, it will be characterised as very successful. It proved, despite various challenges, the resilience of the traditionally friendly relations between Cyprus and Russia and the strong political commitment to strengthen and deepen these relations in a variety of fields.
The U.S. and the U.K., in view of the Ukrainian crisis, reacted, the first expressing complaints over the timing of the visit, and the second concern over a deal that formalised the use of Cypriot ports by the Russian navy, although later on, Minister for Europe David Lidington tried to play down criticism of the visit.
The argument was that the importance of unity and of pressing Russia was jeopardised. Antithesis to this thesis is that Turkey, a NATO member and EU candidate, does not apply sanctions against Russia and received President Putin in Ankara, as Hungary did in Budapest, without any reaction either from the U.S. or the EU. However, Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus and violation of its EEZ are not a matter of concern!
Within the framework of the theses and antitheses projected by the President’s visit to Moscow, the following are of particular interest:
In the first place, the relations between the EU and Russia acquire, at this stage, a particular importance. In contrast to the policy of sanctions, Cyprus supported constructive dialogue and milder sanctions. Cyprus’ voice in the EU had a balancing effect and its involvement in the efforts to contain the Ukrainian crisis was very much appreciated by President Putin.
President Anastasiades expressed the position of the EU and conveyed messages from France and Germany, thus concurring with the Franco-German opening towards Russia. The telephone call to Chancellor Merkel after his return to Cyprus, testifies to the fact.
The geographic position of Cyprus and the particular interest of Russia in the eastern Mediterranean, as witnessed by its naval base in Tartus (Syria), put forward another issue conducive to cooperation between the two countries, with a view to solving the problems of the region through diplomacy and negotiations. The role of Cyprus in the stability of the eastern Mediterranean is confirmed by the excellent relations it entertains with all the countries of the region, and the fact that it can serve as a bridge between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. A good example is the tripartite cooperation between Cyprus, Egypt and Greece which resulted in the “Cairo Declaration” of November 2014. At this time of upheaval in the region, the signing of a series of agreements between Russia and Egypt offers yet another framework of cooperation between Cyprus and Russia, so as to fulfil the vision of stability, peace and prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean.
The antithesis comes again from Turkey, which on the basis of the Neo-Ottoman dogma of Davutoglu aspires to dominate the eastern Mediterranean, violating every principle of international law.
As far as the Cyprus problem is concerned, Russia played, and can still play, an active role. It has always supported the efforts to solve the Cyprus problem on the basis of international law, the UN Charter and the resolutions of the Security Council. The good Putin-Erdogan relations prompted President Anastasiades to ask the Russian President to convey to Turkey those messages which will help to revive the inter-communal negotiations and their successful completion. This, however, does not prohibit Cyprus to continue asking its “strategic partner”, the USA, to intervene in the direction of Turkey with a view to changing its negative stand on the Cyprus problem. In this connection, it should be mentioned that Russia did not complain for having our relations with the U.S. upgraded.
Finally, the signing of 11 agreements relating to important issues of mutual interest proves the existence of political will to further strengthen the bilateral relations, which are not directed against any third country.
The outcome of our friendly relations with Moscow is the restructuring of the 2.5 billion euro loan with favourable terms and the perspectives of a more enterprising cooperation in the field of energy. The political meaning of the signing of these agreements is that it confirms the statehood of the Republic of Cyprus, which by contrast is not recognised by Turkey. This point has been taken up by Eroglu who rushed to state that the agreements are not binding for the Turkish Cypriots.
In view of the above, the conclusion is that the visit of President Anastasiades to Moscow was a resounding success, and by its substance created the political framework within which the further strengthening and deepening of the Cyprus-Russia relations will be sought, despite the reaction of third parties and their efforts to isolate Moscow. On the basis of reciprocity, Cyprus does not forget and in need is a friend indeed.