Greek Cypriots sign military deal with Russia
The Greek Cypriot administration and Russia have signed a military cooperation deal allowing the Russian military to use air and seaports in the south of the divided eastern Mediterranean island, Anadolu agency reported.
The agreement came after the leader of the Greek Cypriot administration, Nicos Anastasiades, arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.
Russian news agency Tass cited Putin as saying Russian vessels taking part in the "fight against terrorism" and piracy would be allowed to use Greek Cypriot administration's ports.
Putin said: "Our friendly ties aren't aimed against anyone."
"I don't think it should cause worries anywhere."
While EU states have appeared in public to be united in terms of sanctioning Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, the Greek Cypriot administration's closer relations with Russia has unveiled divisions within the bloc.
Anastasiades criticized EU sanctions against Russia as being responsible for complicating the economies of many European countries and bringing no prospects to the citizens of Ukraine.
He told Tass: "We have openly said in the Council of Europe that sanctions will not solve the problem."
"Sanctions will only create wider problems for the whole European Union. It turns out that these sanctions will be paid for by the people from the smallest of the countries."
"Our economy and defense are highly dependent on our relations with Russia. Thousands of Russian companies work in [the Greek Cypriot side], we have large investments made by the citizens of Russia," he said.
Paul Ivan, a political analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, said there were a growing number of voices within the European Union calling for a reduction in the sanctions against Russia.
He said: "Some are coming from Greece, some from [Greek] Cyprus and some from other countries as well."
"Obviously there are (EU) countries that are worried or annoyed by these very friendly gestures towards Moscow."
"This is being seen as critical by many members, but it will depend on how far [Greek Cypriot side] would go on this policy. So far they've played along and I expect them to continue," he added.
The talks in Moscow come after Greek Cypriot administration's top diplomat, Ioannis Kasoulides, two weeks ago denied reports that Russia was seeking to create military bases in the Greek Cypriot administration, which is a member of the European Union but not of NATO.
He said on the sidelines of a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Feb. 9: "There is no question of Russian air or naval military bases being on the soil of [Greek] Cyprus."