The Republic of Cyprus was in a diplomatic pickle this week, after US officials urged the island to follow through with banning Russian naval ships, prompting Moscow’s reaction.
Earlier this week, US Assistant Secretary of State for Military Affairs Clark Cooper offered remarks over his visits to Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria last month.
Cooper, who cited agreements with Nicosia and recent US legislation, stated that in order to expand a partial list of embargo on arms to the Republic of Cyprus, “we must see further assurances about their ability to deny port access to Russian naval vessels.”
“These are very honest conversations. We certainly appreciate the traditional nature of these visits, which may have had some historical economic interest. But along the way, as Cyprus takes on a bigger role in the Eastern Mediterranean and greater responsibilities that support the demands of the European Union and NATO, we need to be more interoperable with them, and that requires to address the portage issue,” Cooper said.
'It is not the first time that Washington has conditioned better relations with countries on the curtailment of their cooperation with Russia,' Zakharova said
The remarks prompted the reaction from Moscow, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova writing on Twitter on Thursday that US demands for Cyprus to deny port access to Russian naval vessels “run contrary to the inalienable right of states to an independent foreign policy.”
“It is not the first time that Washington has conditioned better relations with countries on the curtailment of their cooperation with Russia,” Zakharova added.
In early September, Washington announced a partial lifting of a decades-old embargo on small arms to the Republic of Cyprus, a decision criticized by Turkey that said it ignored equality and balance between the two sides on the divided island.
Months earlier, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order deferring the issue to State Secretary Mike Pompeo, delegating the decision to his top diplomat as he saw fit.
During a surprise visit to Nicosia in September, Pompeo and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the construction of CYCLOPS, a new training centre to be funded by Washington and built in Cyprus, with construction set to begin before the year is out.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who also visited the island days before Pompeo’s surprise visit, said his country stood ready to help diffuse tensions in the region.
Lavrov also criticized US efforts, saying Washington’s moves were fueling conflict rather than promoting peaceful solutions.