Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Russia warns Cyprus not to allow a US deployment

Reuters, MOSCOW

Russia on Wednesday warned authorities in Cyprus not to allow the US military to deploy on their territory, saying such a move would draw a Russian reaction, and result in “dangerous and destabilizing consequences” for the Mediterranean island.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow had become aware of what she called “anti-Russian plans” involving Cyprus and the US military, which she said was eyeing setting up forward operating bases for its troops there.

“We’re getting information from various sources that the United States is actively studying options to build up its military presence on Cyprus,” Zakharova told a news briefing in Moscow. “The aim is not being hidden — to counter growing Russian influence in the region in the light of the successful operation by the Russian military in Syria.”

There was no immediate US response to her comments.

Cypriot government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the island had no desire to further militarize.

“We want to clarify that it has never been our aim, nor do we seek the militarization of Cyprus,” he said, responding to Zakharova’s remarks.

“The Republic of Cyprus, because of its advantageous geographical position, offers facilities for missions of a humanitarian nature and then only in cases where countries make a request or have a relevant MOU [memorandum of understanding] with the Republic,” he said.

Zakharova said a US delegation had inspected potential sites for the bases and that Washington was engaged in intensive talks with Nicosia on expanding military cooperation.

Cyprus is a popular destination for Russian tourists and many wealthy Russian businesspeople bank or own property there.

The island, a former British colony, hosts two British military bases.

Cyprus was split by a Turkish invasion in 1974 that followed a Greek-inspired coup. Greek Cypriots run the internationally recognized government.

Zakharova said Russia had repeatedly warned Cypriot authorities against allowing the island to be further militarized.

“It being drawn into US and NATO plans in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East will inevitably lead to dangerous and destabilizing consequences for Cyprus itself,” she said. “In Moscow we can’t ignore the anti-Russian element in these [US] plans and in the event that they are implemented we will be forced to take countermeasures.”

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