The United States is unhappy with the fact that Cyprus allows ships of the Russian Navy to enter its ports. How important are these visits for the actions of the Russian naval group in the Mediterranean, what is the interest of Cyprus in this case, and can the United States block the Russian Navy’s ability to enter Cypriot ports?
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo discussed with President of Cyprus Nikos Anastasiades concern The United States calls at the ports of the republic of Russian ships bound for Syria. According to him, Russian ships “in Syria are not carrying out humanitarian missions.” The United States “asked Cyprus to take into account the concerns” of the American side.
This is not the first time the United States has voiced such “concern” lately. Back in early September, Russian Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus Nikolay Osadchiy stated: The United States, seeking to ban the access of Russian military vessels to the seaports of Cyprus, is seeking to embroil Moscow and Nicosia. At the same time, as the ambassador noted, the United States is in Syria illegally, while the Russian contingent is present at the invitation of the legitimate Syrian authorities.
A similar point of view was voiced by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during his visit to Nicosia on September 8. According to him, Moscow is very worried that the United States is trying to play countries against each other and in general to promote the line “who is not with us is against us.” The minister called this position unfortunate.
In turn, the head of the Cypriot Foreign Ministry Nikos Christodulidis, after Lavrov’s visit, announced that the authorities of the island state would continue to receive Russian warships in their ports. According to Christodoulides, Cyprus has always supported the courts of any country on humanitarian grounds and is not going to abandon this approach. “This is what we did before and what we will continue to do,” – quoted TASS words of the head of the Cyprus Foreign Ministry.
Christodoulides stressed that Russia does not use Cypriot ports for its operations, since it has a naval base in Syria. But, apparently, for the United States, this argument is not convincing.
We add that diplomatic relations between Russia and Cyprus were established 60 years ago (after Cyprus gained independence from Britain) and are traditionally friendly. Moreover, cooperation between the two countries concerns not only the sectors of economy, law, education and culture, but also affects the military-technical sphere.
So, in 2015, Moscow and Nicosia concluded agreement on military cooperation, which implies calls at the ports of Cyprus warships, visits by military aviation and the development of relations in the fields of military education, medicine, history, topography and hydrography. The document also provides for the exchange of experience in education and training of military personnel.
After signing the agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin notedthat the ships of the Russian Navy, which take part in the fight against terrorism and piracy, will enter the ports of Cyprus. “I don’t think it can bother anyone, this is the first thing. And secondly, this is our joint work, and in this sense we can talk about the contribution of Cyprus to this joint work, I am sure, will bring results in those most important and acute areas in the fight against the challenges that we all face today, in including in this region of the world, ”the Russian leader said.
“In this regard, Cyprus is an important point for the Russian Navy, which is actually located in the center of the Eastern Mediterranean. When we have the opportunity to enter the ports of Cyprus, we thereby expand the possibilities of our military presence in the region. This is of great moral, psychological and political significance, ”Doctor of Military Sciences, captain of the first rank in reserve Konstantin Sivkov told the VZGLYAD newspaper.
The expert also added that today Russia does not have very many ships in the ocean zone. At the same time, corvettes and small missile ships, which are used, among other things, for strikes against terrorists in Syria, have little autonomy. “And in order to be able to repair these ships and replenish supplies, we needed an agreement with Cyprus, expanding the coverage area of our ships by 200-300 km,” the source said. Sivkov believes that this state of affairs cannot suit the United States.
But can the Americans close the ports of the republic for the Russian fleet? “They cannot directly take and close Cyprus for Russian ships, because Cyprus is a sovereign state. But they can force the Cypriot government to take such a step with the help of sanctions, ”Sivkov said.
Aleksey Leonkov, editor of the Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine, agrees with this opinion. He suggests that Washington may threaten Nicosia with blocking dollar transactions, which will prove to be a serious problem for the republic’s authorities and its economy. “As for the actual military cooperation, it cannot be said that Cyprus is especially important for Russia, because in the same region we have a military base in Syrian Tartus. But for the fulfillment of some tasks in the Mediterranean, such cooperation is beneficial for us, ”said the military expert to the VZGLYAD newspaper.
“In addition, cooperation between Russia and Cyprus does not contradict The convention UN on the Law of the Sea and Freedom of Navigation. According to the convention, each country has the right to independently decide who it will and will not allow into its ports. Another thing is that this fundamental convention was not signed by the United States, and this explains a lot in their behavior towards many countries, including Cyprus, “Leonkov added.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the All-Russian Fleet Support Movement, Captain First Rank in Reserve Mikhail Nenashev urged the Americans “not to stick their nose where they shouldn’t,” because Russian-Cypriot relations, and more broadly, Russian-Greek relations, are centuries-old.
“Our relationship is much older than America itself. And we are not calling on the US Navy to stop using Canadian ports, ”
– Nenashev sarcastically in a commentary to the VZGLYAD newspaper.
“But the visits of Russian ships are much more important for Cyprus and Greece, which are in confrontation with Turkey. And for us, from a naval point of view, this is just a demonstration of the flag and influence in the region, but nothing more. Even during the Cold War, we could not regard Greece and Cyprus as reliable partners and assistants in logistics and support matters. In this sense, Syria, Egypt and even Algeria are much more important for us, ”the source said.
“At the same time, of course, we are interested in having spare ports and options for expanding the presence of our ships in the countries of the region. But this issue is not solved by simple visits. For this, cooperation between the countries must be at a completely different level, “Nenashev summed up.