Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 5

Russia’s ambassador to Cyprus said yesterday that Nicosia’s recent decisionPV not to deploy Russian S-300 air defense missile complexes on the island would in no way harm relations between Russia and Cyprus. Ambassador Georgy Muradov’s remarks followed a meeting with Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides. The two sides reportedly also discussed the costs of storing the S-300 missiles in Russia, as well as possible complications in shipping the complexes to the Greek island of Crete rather than to Cyprus. In view of Russia’s friendly relations with both Greece and Cyprus, however, Muradov suggested that any difficulties in that area should be easily overcome (Itar-Tass, January 8). On December 29, nearly two years after reaching a controversial agreement with Moscow to deliver the Russian air defense missiles to Cyprus, Clerides announced that the missiles would like be sent instead to Crete (see the Monitor, January 4).

Yesterday’s talks in Nicosia came a day after a Cypriot government spokesman claimed that the decision not to deploy the S-300s on Cyprus was taken with an eye toward European-Greek relations. “We believe that a powerful European Greece is an indispensable condition for aiding Cyprus to tackle its vitally important problems,” the spokesman said (Itar-Tass, January 6). The Greek Cypriot government currently seeks to join the European Union (EU) while Greece itself is striving to be included in the European monetary union.

The United States had joined the EU in condemning the planned delivery of S-300s to Cyprus, while Turkey had warned Cyprus that it would use military force if necessary to stop deployment of the missiles. Clerides’ announcement on December 24 therefore won praise in Washington and throughout Europe. Some Russian sources have suggested, however, that the Cypriot decision was conditioned primarily by pressure Washington and Ankara put on Nicosia. They also suggest that the United States was primarily interested in closing off Cyprus as a market for Russian military hardware (Rossiiskaya gazeta, January 6).