Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was in Nicosia yesterday for meetings with Cyprus’ political leadership. Lavrov is a frequent visitor to the island and once again his trip was successful and demonstrated the excellent relations that exist between Cyprus and Russia.
Both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation have always supported Cyprus against the designs of Turkey, Britain and the USA to partition the island and this support has often proved vital in the UN Security Council where Russia, and increasingly China (the Chinese ambassador to Nicosia speaks perfect Greek), has time and again blocked, and even vetoed, pro-Turkish Anglo-American resolutions and initiatives.
Cyprus’ financial services sector has also greatly benefited from the large number of Russian companies registered on the island, taking advantage of the tax breaks on offer in Cyprus, making Cyprus, with $31.8bn of accumulated investment, the second largest investor in the Russian economy.
This happy arrangement has spawned a considerable Russian community in Cyprus – maybe up to 40,000 strong – particularly in Limassol, and an estimated 200,000 Russian tourists visit the island every year.
There are also strong cultural bonds between Russia and Cyprus. Not only are both countries Christian Orthodox but because of Cyprus’ traditionally large communist party, AKEL, thousands of Cypriots benefited from Soviet higher education and are fluent Russian speakers and Russophiles.
Indeed, one of Lavrov’s purposes in visiting Cyprus yesterday was to present to former minister of communications and works, Haris Thrasou, and Moscow-educated AKEL general secretary, president of the Cyprus House of Representatives and candidate – and likely victor – in next February’s Cypriot presidential elections, Dimitris Christofias, with the Alexander Pushkin medal, awarded to those who promote the use of the Russian language and friendly relations with Russia.
While in Cyprus, Lavrov criticised the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, and his six-monthly report on Cyprus, released last week, which again called on the international community to end the ‘isolation’ of the Turkish Cypriots.
Now, of course, the cause of the ‘isolation’ of the Turkish Cypriots is the occupation of northern Cyprus by 40,000 Turkish troops, which Ban’s report made no mention of – nor did it mention the 200,000 Greek Cypriot refugees ethnically cleansed from northern Cyprus by Turkey in 1974 and ‘isolated’ from their homes and land for more than 30 years; oversights, omissions and disregard of existing and long-standing UN resolutions which prompted Lavrov to say yesterday he hopes in Ban’s next report to the Security Council the secretary general will reflect ‘the real situation’ on the island and mention, among other things, the constructive approach of President Tassos Papadopoulos to the so-called Gambari process for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem, and the many initiatives of the Cyprus government aimed at supporting the economic development of the Turkish Cypriot community.
Lavrov was also in Cyprus to shore up Cyprus’ opposition to recognition of Albanian nationalist efforts to detach Kosovo from the rest of Serbia, a matter on the EU agenda this week.
Cyprus is touchy about secessionist entities achieving international recognition – given Turkey’s concerted campaign to gain recognition for its puppet occupation regime in northern Cyprus, the so-called ‘Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus’ – and is holding out against any EU approval of Kosovo secession before an appropriate UN Security Council resolution.
European newspapers reported yesterday that, of the 27 EU member-states, Cyprus was the only one against an agreement to recognise Kosovo secession; but this targeting of Cyprus seems to be based on statements made by Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, who, over the last few months, has become Turkey’s and the Turkish occupation regime in northern Cyprus’ most ardent cheerleader in the EU.
(Last June, for example, Bildt took the provocative step of inviting the leader of the occupation regime in northern Cyprus, Mehmet Ali Talat, for talks in Stockholm, since when Bildt has been persistently mouthing off about the EU needing to ‘do more to live up to its commitment to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’ – ‘ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots’ is code to the Cyprus government for legitimisation and indirect recognition of the occupation regime).
Not surprisingly, relations between Cyprus and Sweden are at all-time low, culminating last week with Papadopoulos, fed up with Bildt, implying that the Swedish foreign minister’s outbursts and interference did not reflect the official Swedish government position on Cyprus; a comment which so offended Bildt that he cancelled the planned 18 December visit to Stockholm of his Cypriot counterpart, Erato Markoulli.
(Apparently, Bildt’s increasing animosity towards Cyprus has been fuelled by Cypriot newspaper reports pointing out his prominent role in George Soros’ Turkophile Bilderberg Group and the Swede’s extensive business interests in Turkey).
Anyway, Cypriot government spokesman, Vasillis Palmas, denied that Cyprus was out on a limb in the EU in opposing Kosovo secession and said that Italy, Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia also had strong reservations about precipitately approving the Albanian move.