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New deal with Russia raises East-West tensions

28 February 2015

A recent agreement signed between South Cyprus and Russia to allow Russian navy vessels to dock in Cyprus ports has raised concerns in the UK.

The controversial deal allows heavily armed Russian warships to dock in Cypriot ports, a move which was “worrying and disappointing” according to some British MPs.

Tension is on the increase between the West and Moscow because of the Ukraine crisis. Although the Russian navy will only be permitted to dock in Cyprus ports for reasons of counter-terrorism and to combat piracy, it was hinted by President Anastasiades that Russian war planes could also be permitted to use the military airbase in Paphos.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted that the agreement “should not cause worries anywhere”.

Cyprus, an EU member, already hosts two British military bases and 3,200 troops.

Britain, which has called for stringent economic sanctions against Russia for aiding pro-Russian separatists, will be keeping a wary eye on developments.

President Putin will have been infuriated by Britain’s announcement on Tuesday that it would deploy 75 troops to the Ukraine as trainers. Recently Russian bombers encroached UK airspace on a sabre-rattling mission.

The latest agreement fuelled speculation that the Kremlin had engineered the deal by putting together a multi-billion pound package to bail out the debt-ridden South.

The two countries, which have long had close economic ties, signed protocols including fresh financial deals between Cyprus and the Central Bank of Russia.

Earlier this week Russia restructured a 2.5 billion euro ($2.8 billion) loan to South Cyprus that it signed in 2011, cutting the annual interest rate to 2.5 % from 4.5 % and the redemption period to 2018-2021.

The deal represents the latest move of a resurgent Russia with an increasing interest in the eastern Mediterranean, especially with stakes in Greece, Cyprus, and Syria. Although Russian warships officially withdrew from the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Cold war, the changing situation in the Eurozone and the ongoing Syrian civil war led to the re-establishment of the Russian Eastern Mediterranean fleet for the first time in 20 years in 2012.

Sources Daily Mail, Hurriyet and Breitbart News

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