WASHINGTON, D.C. – Cyprus’ Ambassador to the United States George Chacalli has snapped back at a New York Times article suggesting growing ties with Russia are undermining the European Union and part of a secret deal with Moscow.
The April 7 piece entitled Waving Cash, Kremlin Sows E.U. Divisions, detailed Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin which led to Cyprus agreeing to let Russian military vessels dock in Limassol that the Times suggested was a quid pro quo to keep Russian money coming to the island.
Anastasiades, as did new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, also said he was opposed to strict EU sanctions on Russia for backing violent separatists in Ukraine as some European and American officials feared Putin was driving to build a rupture in Europe.
“Mr. Anastasiades insisted that military accords signed in Moscow merely extended a 1996 agreement and were ‘nothing new,’” the Times said. It added that: “The terms of the agreements, however, are all secret, so it is impossible to know what Russia managed to gain.”
In his response, Chacalli wrote the paper that, “A United States embargo — enacted after the Turkish invasion of 1974, which to this day prohibits the transfer of American arms to Cyprus — has left the Cyprus government with no other choice but the Russian market to procure its defense equipment.”
He also said that, “The ‘secret’ agreement to which the article refers is nothing more than the renewal of an expired 1996 agreement, providing for the maintenance of military equipment sold to Cyprus several years ago and for the sale of spare parts for this equipment on the basis of pre-existing contracts.”
Chacalli insited that, “The article does not present the real positions and foreign policy aims of the Cyprus government. The fact of the matter is that Cyprus upholds and implements all sanctions against Russia and supports the Minsk II agreement on the conflict in Ukraine. It is committed to its Western alignment and is a strategic partner of the United States.”
A Letter to the Editor signed by Mehmet Dana was critical of Cyprus. It said that, “As the article notes, the West is now aware of the close relationship between Russia and the Greek Cypriot administration, supposedly a committed European member state.
“Yet, it is astonishing that the Greek Cypriot side pursues such policies with almost absolute impunity, enjoying recognition and political support of the West, while the Turkish Cypriot people remain isolated from the world, contrary to numerous decisions of international institutions such as the United Nations, the Council of the European Union and the Council of Europe.”
The letter went on: “The strong ties between Greek Cypriot and Russian political leaders are a matter of concern for the United States and the European Union. They are also a matter of concern for the Turkish Cypriots who live on the island under embargoes and restrictions, and whose destiny is currently, without their consent, being manipulated.
“We have a right to be heard, and it is the responsibility and duty of the international community to ensure that we are not left out in the cold. With negotiations about Cyprus reunification about to restart, it is of paramount importance that Greek and Turkish Cypriots are treated equally,” it ended.
The Times said that, “Moscow’s skill at prying open fissures in European unity has been on display in Cyprus, a tiny nation that, because of its tight historical, religious and economic ties with Russia, has taken on an oversize role as a pivotal player in the geopolitical struggle set off by the conflict in Ukraine.”