Russian ambassador Stanislav Osadchiy spoke out for the first time on Monday since Moscow issued threats that it would retaliate against any moves to militarise Cyprus in cooperation with the US.
Russia last Wednesday warned that any such move would “inevitably lead to dangerous and destabilising consequences for Cyprus itself”. The threat was repeated the next day, not directly from Moscow, but from the Russian embassy in Israel.
However, Osadchiy, in statements after meeting Limassol mayor Nicos Nicolaides on Monday, said the comments by Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova mainly concerned the US and not Cyprus, though Moscow had clearly said it had repeatedly told the leadership of Cyprus of its position.
Osadchiy told reporters in Limassol that relations between Moscow and Nicosia were good but declined to address the specific threats saying he would not “be a good diplomat”, if he commented over the heads of his superiors in the Kremlin.
“What Ms Zakharova said mainly concerns America, not Cyprus,” he offered. Asked if the crisis was defused, he said “crises come and go.”
The Cypriot government said Friday it considered the whole issue closed after Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The US State Department also rejected as “absurd”, Russian suggestions of a military build-up in Cyprus, accompanied by a threat to retaliate.
Despite the Cyprus government ‘closing’ the issue reports persisted on Sunday, again coming out of Israel.
Amichai Stein, who is a correspondent for Israel’s broadcasting authority, and has contributed to Russian news outlet Sputnik, tweeted: #Exclusive: “Advance talks” for US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to participat (sic) “In the coming months” in a 4-way summit with the leaders of Israel, Greece and Cyprus; US is also considering a 4-way military exercise in the East-Med @kann_news”.
Early last month, Christodoulides after meeting his US counterpart Mike Pompeo and Wess Mitchell, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, signed a statement to promote mutual interests in combatting terrorism, strengthening security at sea and borders and promoting regional stability.
Other developments recently may have fuelled Russia’s suspicions of more US involvement in Cyprus.
Late last month President Nicos Anastasiades told an energy conference that Cyprus was expecting the US to participate in the trilateral cooperation between Greece, Cyprus and Israel in the near future. Cyprus is also appointing a military attaché to the Republic’s embassy in Washington in the US as part of enhancing bilateral relations
It also emerged on Friday that Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, will be visiting Cyprus on December 14.
Osadchiy met with Nicolaides to discuss the renaming of a Limassol park as ‘Victory Park’ in a project co-funded by Russia, which aims to be a place dedicated to the anti-fascist struggle against Nazism.