Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades’ visit to Moscow is creating more tension with his allies, especially the United States.
Now is is not the time for “business as usual with Russia,” Marie Harf, the Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State said about Anastasiades meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and signing a deal to let the Russian Navy use Cypriot ports.
That came as the US, as well as the European Union and United Nations are pushing econonic sanctions on Russia for its support of separatists in Ukraine, but with Cyprus reliant on Russia for trade and tourists, Anastasiades has gone soft on those tough conditions.
During his visit, a top Russian dissident, Boris Nemstov, was also assassinated, leading the US Ambassador on Cyprus, John Koenig, to fire off a critical Tweet that infuriated the Cypriot leader.
Harf said that the Tweet was misunderstood and was inadvertently tied to the events in Ukraine and shouldn’t have been, as did Koenig.
“The US embassy in Nicosia has clarified that the tweets were not meant to link two separate events,” Harf said.
Harf said the US had stressed to their European allies and partners the importance of unity and of pressing Russia to stop fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Cyprus News Agency reported.
“That’s certainly something we feel very strongly about” she added, and the British added similar sentiments, piling the pressure on Anastasiades, whose country is living under a 10 billion euro bailout from international lenders at the same time Russia has offered to help the country with its economic crisis.
Asked why the US wasn’t critical of Turkey over the unlawful 1974 invasion of Cyprus and as it still keeps a standing army in the northern third it occupies, she said those shouldn’t be connected either as the US tried to walk the line between Cyprus and Turkey.
“We obviously have been very clear about different kinds of events, and I’m not going to try and link them,” she said.
Earlier on March 2 Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides met Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland in Washington and a State Department official said that they discussed several issues of shared interest, including increased bilateral economic cooperation, support for Ukrainian sovereignty, and Coalition efforts to defeat ISIS.
Nuland also expressed the United States’ continued support for the Cyprus settlement process, conducted under the auspices of the UN, to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, CNA said, although Anastasiades has complained pressure is being put on him to relent to Turkey and try to end the island’s division.