US Ambassador Julie Fisher is dismissing claims that Washington is using arm-twisting tactics in Nicosia for sanctioning companies on the island, while pointing out Cypriot government statements are in line with the EU’s transatlantic consensus on Russia’s war in Ukraine.
In an interview with daily Phileleftheros, Fisher touched on the hot button issue of sanctions against Russia, saying restrictive economic measures aimed at “Russian enablers” in Cyprus were primarily aimed at ending Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Fisher, who was asked to comment on views that Washington was twisting Nicosia’s arm, said there were misconceptions about imposing sanctions, adding that many characterizations were being made in a broader context where “there is a need for Russia’s war in Ukraine to end.”
“This is the number one goal of our entire effort,” Fisher said.
The interview, initially posted on Sunday morning in a short version online, came after Cypriot companies were included in lists of sanctioned entities published by Washington in April and May, prompting fierce debate on the island between political and legal circles.
'Based on President Christodoulides and his ministers, it is very clear where Cyprus stands in this war' Fisher was quoted as saying
Prominent lawyer Christos Clerides, who serves as chairman of the Cyprus Bar Association, had questioned the logic of Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides, who steered without delay the state’s agencies at implementing sanctions imposed by UK and US.
Clerides also criticized the government for publicizing the implementation of sanctions, following public statements and declarations by politicians including Christodoulides, who said his administration was mounting efforts to clear the island of any suspicions.
"I am not here to cover for anyone. Those who violate sanctions and jeopardize the country's name and the industry itself should face legal consequences,” Christodoulides declared.
But Clerides argued that “there was more damage done by those statements rather than by the sanctions themselves,” adding the vast majority of service-oriented businesses played by the rules.
Christodoulides later asked the US for more information about sanctioned companies and further instructed agencies to seek guidance for banks to unfreeze assets for entities “unfairly targeted” by sanctions, while thousands of bank accounts of Russian nationals were also frozen.
Fisher weighed in on the issue, praising the Cypriot government for its “efforts towards changing perceptions that negatively affect the reputation of Cyprus.”
The American diplomat also told the Greek-language newspaper there was a two-way communication between Washington and Nicosia on a wide range of mutual interests.
Fisher also suggested that the United States got “clear signs” from G7 leaders during a recent meeting in Hiroshima, saying the West was committed to doing everything possible in order to cut out resources that allow Kremlin to wage war in Ukraine.
“Cutting out the resources that Russia needs for putting more soldiers on the battlefield, cutting out the fuel used by Kremlin to send more equipment to the battlefield,” Fisher was quoted as saying.
The American ambassador also said Washington believed Nicosia was clear on the issue of Ukraine.
“Based on President Christodoulides and his ministers, it is very clear where Cyprus stands in this war,” Fisher said.
The interview came after Moscow issued a statement saying Russia continued to support a settlement of the Cyprus Problem on the basis of international law and UN Security Council resolutions.
Russian government spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a press conference on Wednesday that Moscow believed it was “important that the residents of Cyprus find a final solution by themselves.”
“There is no need for anyone to impose timeframes, ready-made recipes, to do the thinking for them, and put pressure,” Zakharova said.