On a visit to Cyprus on 2 February, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told his host, Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades, that the two countries could form a bridge between Europe and Russia, currently estranged over Ukraine.
“Greece and Cyprus can become a bridge of peace and cooperation between the EU and Russia,” said Tsipras, as quoted by the Greek daily Ekathimerini.
Tsipras however denied seeking financial aid from Moscow. “We are in substantial negotiations with our partners in Europe and those we have borrowed from. We have obligations towards them,” he said in response to a journalist’s question. “Right now, there are no other thoughts on the table,” he added.
On Friday, Moscow suggested it would consider offering financial aid to Greece, a few days after Athens had voiced reservations over EU sanctions on Russia.
Both Greece and Cyprus are Orthodox countries with traditions of siding with Russia on many occasions. Athens and Nicosia also back Orthodox Serbia and refuse to recognise Kosovo as an independent state. The economic penetration of Russia in Cyprus has raised concerns among the island country’s Western allies.
During the 2012-2013 Cyprus financial crisis, Russia proposed financial assistance to Nicosia, but the EU and eurozone member went instead for a €10 billion bailout agreed with the troika, in return for closing the country’s second largest bank Laiki, and imposing a one-time levy on all uninsured deposits, including those held by foreign citizens.
Tsipras also reportedly said that the dissolution of the troika of lenders was in the interest of both Greece and Cyprus.
Cyprus was contaminated by the Greek economic crisis mainly due to its exposure to Greek banks and is under a bailout programme managed by the troika, composed of representatives of the Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Tsipras wants to renegotiate the bailout terms for his debt-stricken country, and says the troika format, of low-level officials with questionable legitimacy, is insulting to his country.
According to the Irish Times, although the messages against the troika sound like music to many Cypriots, it is unlikely that Anastasiades, a staunch conservative, would heed Tsipras’ call.
Tsipras also expressed support to Cyprus by slamming Turkey for breaching international law by sending a ship to conduct seismic research in the Cypriot exclusive economic zone.