Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 118

Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov said yesterday that Russia would forego the sale of S-300 PMU1 anti-aircraft missiles to the Greek Cypriot government if Cyprus is declared a demilitarized zone. The remark followed a meeting in Moscow between Primakov and Greek Cypriot foreign minister Ioannis Kasoulidhis. Along with demilitarization, Primakov also called for the deployment of an international contingent to Cyprus and the conduct of "intensive negotiations" to resolve tensions there. If demilitarization does not occur, Primakov said, then Russia fully intends to follow through with its sale of the missiles. (Russian news agencies, June 16)

Primakov’s proposals, certain to be rejected by Turkey, reflect Moscow’s increasingly close ties to the Greek Cypriot government and its ongoing efforts to carve out a larger role for Russia in the dispute between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus. Indeed, Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus went so far as to state to a group of Russian journalists on March 24 that Moscow regards Cyprus as a "platform for the reestablishment of [Russia’s] political-economic influence in the world." (Russian news agencies, March 24) At a meeting last month of the UN Security Council, Russia also called for Cyprus to be demilitarized. That proposal came as part of a broader plan that included a call for the establishment of a "two-zone and two-community federation" on the island. (Itar-Tass, May 6)

Russia’s decision to sell anti-aircraft missiles to the Greek Cypriot government — the approximately $400 million deal was first mooted late last year and a contract was signed on January 4 — further inflamed tensions on the highly-militarized island and was the object of much criticism in the West. Turkey, which has stationed some 35,000 troops on the island since 1974, also reacted angrily to the sale and threatened military reprisals. The U.S. subsequently dispatched a special envoy to the region and, amid assurances that Nicosia would not actually take delivery of the missiles for another sixteen months, the mutual recriminations quieted somewhat. But the conflict continues to boil, and Primakov said yesterday that it would be on the agenda during talks at this week’s G-7 Summit in Denver. It is also worth noting that the Cyprus conflict pits two NATO allies — Greece and Turkey — against one another, a factor that surely figures in Moscow’s calculations.

Moscow to Have Official Red Light District.