Cyprus Denies Deal to Host Russian Air, Navy Bases

AP Photo/Petros Karadjias
AP Photo/Petros Karadjias

A Chinese news agency reported the country of Cyprus was ready to host Russian air and navy bases. Russian news site printed the story, which was then picked up by numerous international outlets. However, on Monday, Cypriot officials denied the reports.

“There is no question of Russian air or naval military bases on the soil of Cyprus,” announced Cyprus Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union, but not NATO. The tensions between the EU and Russia continue to grow due to the latter’s participation in the war in east Ukraine. Russia is allowed to temporarily use bases near Paphos and Limassol. From the BBC:

But Mr Kasoulides dismissed the leasing claim, saying “there has never been any request from Russia about this”, the Cyprus News Agency CNA reported.

He said President Anastasiades was referring to “the renewal of a military co-operation agreement with Russia consisting of maintenance of military equipment sold to Cyprus years ago, as well as the purchase of spare parts according to existing contracts”.

He added that “as regards the offering of facilities, these are of a purely non-military humanitarian nature, such as the evacuation of Russian civilians from the Middle East if the need arises”.

Cyprus is one of the few EU members that has consistently protested against Russian sanctions since the Ukraine crisis escalated last March. The extensive history between the two countries explains why.

The Cyprus bailout in March 2014 revealed that “one half to a third of all Cyprus bank deposits are of Russian origin.” Cyprus has a 10 percent corporate tax rate and a tax treaty with Russia. The two countries worked together during the Cold War. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Cyprus “was one of the few countries to continue handling Russian money and investments.”

In April 2014, Kasoulides said sanctions would destroy the Cypriot economy.

“There are very strong economic ties between Cyprus and Russia,” he told a German newspaper. “If sanctions are really necessary, then every member state should decide for itself whether to take part. However the measures look, we must not harm ourselves.”

The EU passed sanctions against Russia despite quarrels with Cyprus. The war in east Ukraine continued to rage on, the EU threatened more sanctions, and Cyprus opposed them again. In August, Kasoulides made it clear to the EU that the tiny island would not support more sanctions since the previous sanctions “appeared not to have achieved the required results.”

The most recent round of sanctions is delayed until after peace talks, but once again Cyprus objected against the sanctions along with the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

“Sanctions have had a heavy cost for us all, the EU has so far lost €21 billion (£15.6bn),” said Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo. “In Spain we have been badly hit in terms of agriculture and tourism.”