NEW YORK – Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said European Union sanctions imposed against Russia for backing separatists in Ukraine should be lifted.
Meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the United Nations General Assembly here, he said the sanctions do not offer a “chance for dialogue and problem resolution,” and that there is a need to normalize relations, Russia Today reported.
Cyprus relies on huge deposits of Russian investors and business money in the island’s banks, as well as Russian tourists.
Despite Russia’s backing of the separatists, accusations Russian troops were on Ukraininan soil and that Moscow was behind the downing of a civilian airliner over Ukraine, he said Russia is blameless.
“Sanctions do not offer the chance for dialogue and problem resolution. On the contrary, they keep the parties apart,” he added, mentioning that Cyprus was also losing out because of countersanctions imposed by Russia against the EU.
Cyprus has been one of the most vocal critics of EU sanctions imposed against Russia and in July the Cypriot parliament passed a resolution urging the government to work towards the removal of the sanctions that Anastasiades said are hurting Cyprus’ trade with Moscow.
“Sanctions imposed against Russia turned out to be counterproductive and do not contribute to resolving the crisis in Ukraine. They have instead solely negative political and economic consequences both for Russia and all EU member states,” a statement issued by the Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL) read.
The party’s General Secretary, Andros Kyprianou, a lawmaker who supported Anastasiades’ call, said it was “unjustified” to impose sanctions against Moscow despite the international community’s condemnation over the downfall of parts of Ukraine and Russia seizing territory.
“Russia does not bear responsibility for the situation in Ukraine. That is why we decided to come forward with this initiative in the parliament,” he added, as reported by TASS.
With some of its members dissenting, the EU formally extended economic restrictions against Russia on July 1 for another six months. Russia also prolonged its embargo on Western food imports until the end of 2017.
The EU initially introduced economic sanctions against Russia in July 2014 for one year over the crisis in Ukraine and the Russian reunification with Crimea.
The sanctions target Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, along with a number of government officials, businessmen and public figures.