While supplying missile defense systems to Turkey – which is drilling for energy in Cypriot waters – Russia is trying to keep ties with the island's legitimate government tight, Cyprus home to many Russians and its banks holding vast amounts of Russian cash.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov headed to Cyprus Sept. 7 for an official visit marking 60 years of diplomatic relations between the countries, coming as Turkey is stepping up provocations in the East Mediterranean and Moscow playing both sides against the middle.
Speaking to Cyprus’ Phileleftheros newspaper ahead of the two-day visit, Lavrov said that “deepening Russia-Turkey cooperation and the necessity to cooperate with Ankara on regional issues neither affects nor will affect in any way our dialogue with Nicosia.”
He didn't explain which way Russia would tilt if a conflict breaks out in the East Mediterranean and Aegean as Turkey has an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo and plans to drill there as well.
“We consider any actions that risk a further increase in the potential for conflict as unacceptable,” Lavrov said, without denouncing Turkey by name, Russia trying to gain influence in a NATO country.
“We have repeatedly urged the leaderships of the countries in the region to show political foresight and resolve disputes exclusively by peaceful means and within the legal framework. It is better to resolve differences at the negotiating table rather than aggravate them with public rhetorical duels,” he said.
Cyprus and Turkey have the “political will to prevent further destabilization of the regional situation,” Lavrov said, adding that Russia is willing to broker talks to defuse tension between Cyprus and Turkey “only if both request it.”