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Mending Fences

The government seems confident in its relationship with its European partners and the US after President Nicos Anastasiades’ recent trip to Moscow.

Anastasiades was initially criticised for both breaking protocol over Russia’s isolation due to its role in the Ukraine crisis and for certain comments he made during his visit – praising President Vladimir Putin’s “selfless leadership” and accusing the EU of double standards regarding its stance on Ukraine and Cyprus.

Whilst acknowledging that the above comments could definitely hurt relations with Eastern Europeans, which have frosty relations with Russia, advisers at the Presidential Palace believe Britain would also have a negative perception of the Russian visit.

However, the advisers do not expect the issue will affect relations between Nicosia and London in the long run.

At the same time, the Cyprus Weekly’s (CW) sources in the Palace have pointed out that top EU leaders -German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande- expressed little reaction to the President’s Moscow visit.

Anastasiades talked to both Merkel and Hollande on his return from Russia. Both leaders were more concerned as to whether Putin would support the Minsk ceasefire agreement in Ukraine. They were unfazed by the naval agreement or any “unfortunate” remarks.

Regarding the reaction from the US, the government feels relations are on the mend.

The CW understands that Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland had the chance to iron out any wrinkles during a meeting in Washington this week.

Government sources insist that Brussels and Washington were fully informed in advance about the content of the bilateral agreements signed in Moscow.

Of the eleven agreements, only the naval one providing Russian warships with access to facilities in Limassol and Larnaca ports made headlines abroad. The accord normalises the servicing of Russian warships in Cypriot ports.

A second Memorandum of Understanding, involving provision of services to Russian military planes in Paphos’ Andreas Papandreou base, was not signed. The local media completely overlooked an MoU allowing Russian companies to maintain a presence in Cyprus, despite Putin’s deoffshorisation law that hopes to repatriate vast amounts of money circulating in offshore companies, including Cyprus.

Koenig’s tweet

Last Sunday, US Ambassador John Koenig posted a tweet that flippantly linked Anastasiades’ visit to Moscow with opposition leader Boris Nemtsov’s murder.

The tweet infuriated Anastasiades, politicians and locals alike, but the President stopped short of asking the US to recall Koenig.

The ambassador issued a statement arguing that his tweet had been misinterpreted.

The US embassy then promptly announced his departure in early June, when his term in Cyprus expires.

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