by Yiannis Ioannou
"Greece and Cyprus have been among the most welcoming countries to us in recent years. There have been numerous joint cultural and educational events. Economic cooperation was actively being developed to benefit mutual interests. It was surprising how quickly they moved not only to the "camp" of those who signed the sanctions but also to the group of leaders of anti-Russian actions. It reflects the imposed line of aggressive confrontation rather than the Greeks' interests." With this statement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov names Greece and Cyprus as "enemy" countries in a message aimed primarily at Greece but inevitably includes Cyprus as well. The tone of the message, which was echoed by the Russian embassy's Twitter account in Athens, sends certain political signals at an inopportune time for Nicosia.
The RoC certainly had a different relationship with Russia than Greece, both in terms of economic and trade activity, and in terms of support - in the context of EU membership and both countries' membership in NATO - to Kyiv (i.e. Greece also sent military aid, i.e. arms and TOBs). The RoC's decision to prohibit Russian ships from docking in Limassol during the Black Sea war fleets, as well as the pre-war decision to suspend accounts of Russian beneficiaries - linked to the Russian oligarchs' system - in the Cypriot banking system, did not go unnoticed by the Kremlin. Lavrov thus includes Cyprus in the long-standing narrative of anti-Russianism, which has generated multiple arguments in Greece since last March. Such a statement is obviously intended for audiences with pro-Russian sentiments that have historically existed at various levels of Cyprus's social and political life. Nonetheless, the contradictions are obvious:
- No restrictions on common cultural and educational events have been imposed. Russian cultural centers continue to operate freely in Cyprus, which has a Russian community of nearly 40,000 people, and cultural events continue to take place.
- The sanctions are not a unilateral political act by the Republic of Cyprus against Russia, but rather a collective decision made within the framework of the EU, to which Cyprus has belonged for 19 years (and Greece for 42), on equal terms and with a decision-making mechanism.
The experienced Russian diplomat's attempt at hinting, that which touches on Cyprus, has an intriguing semantic meaning in terms of the timing of the statements, to which President Anastasiades also officially responded a few days ago. The week leading up to the end of January is a diplomatically critical period for Nicosia in terms of the process of renewing important UN Security Council resolutions, including UNFICYP. In this field, Moscow always seeks - as a permanent member - to put diplomatic pressure on Nicosia and in the near future, among other things, this field could also be one of "diplomatic retaliation".
The accreditation of the new Russian ambassador, Murat Zyazykov, before President Anastasiades is anticipated by the end of the month. Zyazykov is a personality who is not a member of the country's diplomatic service and who, according to sources with knowledge of the situation, is of considerable interest to "K" in terms of the direction that relations between the two countries will take in the years to come.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]