Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov urged Thursday for restraint with regards to Turkish threats in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L)-Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides (R)

Lavrov was speaking after a tête-à-tête meeting with his Cypriot counterpart, Ioannis Kasoulides, at the Foreign Ministry in Nicosia. The top Russian diplomat arrived earlier today in Cyprus for bilateral talks and will attend on Friday the 127th Ministerial Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the last event under the Cyprus Chairmanship of the CoE. Tomorrow he will be also received by the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades.

Asked by CNA on Turkish threats in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone, Lavrov replied that “all such issues and debatable ideas should be discussed within the legal framework, with the agreement of all stakeholders”.

He added that “in this situation, as in any such situation, there is a need for restraint from this threat of using force and from using force itself”, and expressed hope that “all stakeholders choose such a path”.

Speaking through an interpreter, the Foreign Minister also reiterated Moscow’s support for a just, lasting and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem, based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the agreements reached between the two communities.

Foreign Minister Kasoulides said from his part that he briefed his counterpart on the current state of negotiations and expressed Cyprus’ appreciation for the “unremitting principled position of the Russian Federation”. “We particularly highlighted that the United Nations Security Council has a crucial role, not only in endorsing a possible solution, but in taking those necessary decisions for its comprehensive implementation”, Kasoulides underlined.

He said moreover that he informed Lavrov about the hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation program of Cyprus and referred to “Turkey’s aggressive policies in the Eastern Mediterranean, which further complicate the efforts to reach a settlement of the Cyprus problem”.

In reply to a relevant question, Kasoulides said that they discussed this issue with Lavrov, he did not, however, disclose more details. He said that “there is a common understanding that international law, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, has to prevail in any circumstances”.

Moreover, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus said that they discussed with Lavrov bilateral relations, cooperation in the economic and legal fields, as well as cooperation in international fora.

Minister Kasoulides added that, during working lunch, the two Ministers would also “push for the finalization of various agreements” under negotiation.

He said that they would discuss a number of global and regional issues of mutual concern, including Ukraine and “the necessity for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreement”.

On Syria, Kasoulides stressed that Cyprus, the closest EU member state to this country, would like to see a Syrian-led political transition process to establish a democratic, inclusive and representative government by the Syrians, for the Syrians.

Finally, Kasoulides commented on EU-Russia relations, noting that “the current state of relations is beneficial to neither side” and expressed hope for the reevaluation of the situation, leading to a “mutually beneficial reengagement”.

Taking the floor, the Foreign Minister of Russia said that “Cyprus is our important time-tested partner in Europe” and noted that they reviewed bilateral relations with Kasoulides.

He remarked, moreover, that although bilateral trade has shrunk over the past years, it has picked up significantly in recent months.

Lavrov also said that international terrorism calls for a “joint, unified agenda instead of the confrontational policy chosen by several Western countries”. The fight against terrorism calls for a settlement in the Middle East and Northern Africa, but first and foremost in Syria, he went on.

Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, he said that “we need to thoroughly and fully implement the Minsk package”, he added however that recent action by the Ukrainian authorities shows that “it is either not willing or incapable of doing so”.

Commenting on the state of Russia-EU relations, he said that there is no cause for satisfaction there and noted that cooperation must be based on equal rights and mutual respect. For that to happen, Brussels must stop having a “one-way street game” Lavrov noted.

He further expressed gratitude that Cyprus is part of the group of countries within the EU, advocating normal cooperation between the two sides.

Lavrov was also asked about the reported passing of classified information to senior Russian officials by the US President. In his reply, he referred to reports saying that the secret passed was about terrorists being capable of staffing electronic devices with untraceable explosive material.

He added that one month ago, the Trump administration imposed a ban on laptops being carried on airplanes coming from seven Middle Eastern countries, due to a terrorist threat. “So if you’re talking about that, I see no secret here” he said.

He also noted that “many US mass media use the principle used by the Soviet Union media” in vain.

Asked about reports concerning an initiative in Washington to create a NATO-like alliance among Persian Gulf countries, the Russian Foreign Minister said that complicated issues in the Middle East and Northern Africa should be solved on a collective basis, without excluding anyone.

He added that when negotiations between US President Donald Trump and his counterparts in the Middle East take place “we’ll have more clarity and then we can discuss it”.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory. Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci have been engaged in UN-led talks since May 2015 with a view to reunite the island under a federal roof.

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