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Cyprus is an amazing place. Naturally, the island republic is beautiful, very warm and sunny, which makes it a very attractive tourist destination, particularly for people in colder countries, most notably Russia. Historically, it is very ancient.
Politically, it is a divided republic, with about 34% of the island’s land area under control of Turkish-aligned Cypriots in a partially-recognized state that only Turkey itself recognizes. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is a heavily Sunni Muslim region, while the rest of the island is populated predominantly by Greek Orthodox Christians. The United Nations does not formally recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But this division is real enough to present challenges for the island nation.
The Russian Federation has strong cultural and diplomatic ties with Cyprus, including the Turkish section, and is working with the nation to improve its economy and to mend the fences caused by the internecine strife.
Most recently two events took place – a meeting between the Cypriot Foreign Minister Nicos and the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov which took place on April 27, and a speech given on April 26 by the Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Stanislav Osadchiy.
The Foreign Ministers’ meeting was to discuss the “Guarantee System”, stemming from the Treaty of Guarantee, signed in 1960 by the Republic of Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was designed to keep Cyprus from political or economic union with any other state, formed mainly because of tension between Greece and Turkey’s ethnic and religious forces. In the Russian view, this system has grown out of date and needs to be changed:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday said the guarantee system was anachronistic and inconsistent with the modern era, and Cyprus’ sovereignty and territorial integrity could be derived from the UN Security Council itself.
Lavrov was speaking after a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Christodoulides in Moscow. The reference was to the fact that Turkey, along with Greece and the UK, has been a guarantor of Cyprus since 1960, and the fact that the last conference on Cyprus in Switzerland failed when the two sides could not agree a way forward on security and guarantees.
Presently there is still stress in Cyprus, and there remain strong tensions between the Greek Cypriots, who are Orthodox Christians in the majority, and the Turkish ones, who are Sunni Muslim. This feud has its basis running back hundreds of years, and the Greek sentiment against the Turkish people is still very strong, due to the Islamic country’s treatment of Christians during the occupation.
Russia sees Cyprus as a very good friend and partner and wants to help improve the Cypriots economic situation, which was spoken about by the Russian ambassador the day before:
[Speaking at a conference held in Limassol titled ‘The future of Russian business in Cyprus’, Mr Osadchiy noted] that the two nations share cultural and religious traditions, mutual trust and support, he said that one of the pillars of their partnership is the substantial economic cooperation.
‘We are happy to see that after the financial crisis in Cyprus, the economy is bouncing back with projected growth rates, accelerating year by year,’ Osadchiy said in his keynote address.
He noted that such developments would not have been possible without the effective work of government leaders, whose anti-recession policy was gradually restoring Cyprus’ activities in the international investment arena.
Pointing out that the Russian Federation is contributing to the economic recovery of the island, he said that recently the Russian government decided to restructure the previously granted loan to Cyprus.
On tourism, he said the Russian market is traditionally ranked second in Cyprus, thus contributing significantly to the local economy.
Both developments are seen as positive signs that effective actions are, and will continue to be taken, to assure the peace and security of this island nation.