NICOSIA – Risking the lifting of an an American arms embargo, Cyprus’ former Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides reportedly wanted to let Russian warships use ports as a “humanitarian” gesture before the invasion of Ukraine.
The British newspaper The Sunday Mail said a deal with Russia signed four months before the attack would have allowed the docking of Russian warships and the use of airports “for landing military aircraft.”
That was an agreement on Cooperation during Humanitarian Operations Performed in Case of Crisis Management Situations signed in October 2021 in Moscow by Christodoulides, the report said.
That violated one of the provisions of the Menendez-Rubio, Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 which led the way for the arms embargo to be lifted, said The Cyprus Mail.
Christodoulides is now favored to win the Presidential elections on Feb. 5 to replace outgoing Nicos Anastasiades, although with 14 candidates in the field there could be a run-off.
In September 2022 – before the embargo was eased – Christodoulides went to Moscow, where he met Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and signed the cooperation agreement for humanitarian crises, the report said.
“This is more like an agreement on military rather than humanitarian cooperation, as it offers the use of facilities in Cyprus to the Russian navy and air force, as well as military personnel, on the pretext of humanitarian operations,” a diplomatic source told the newspaper of an apparent ruse.
The agreement also had provisions for the storage of dangerous cargo but it didn’t come into effect because Christodoulides was succeeded in office by Ioannis Kasoulides, who is more western-oriented, the paper also said.
It was Kasoulides’ initiative to stop the docking of Russian ships from March 1, 2022, immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, a month before European Union sanctions included banning Russian ships, the newspaper noted.
“The signing of the agreement shows the intention of Christodoulides to institutionalize the cooperation,” said the diplomatic source. “Moscow’s demands were satisfied, regardless of this affecting our relations with the US by contravening the conditions for the lifting of the arms embargo,” he said.
Christodoulides would not, however have signed the agreement without the go-ahead of President Nicos Anastasiades but he could have argued against doing so as Kasoulides had done on previous occasions, the paper also said.