Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (R) welcomes his Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis (L) during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, 25 July 2012. (Credit: EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV)

July 25, 2012 (TSR) – Russia and Cyprus agree that the crisis in Syria must be settled without outside interference through a political dialogue between the Syrian sides and Syrians alone after emerging from talks held in Moscow on Wednesday.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis is on a one-day working visit to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The meeting was focused on the situation in Syria and the wider region of Southern Mediterranean and North Africa.

Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (R) welcomes his Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis (L) during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, 25 July 2012. (Credit: EPA/SERGEI CHIRIKOV)

Cyprus is the current chair nation of the European Union. Accordingly, Mr Lavrov had a few words to say about the EU’s sanctions against Damascus:

“Russia respects the decisions taken by the European Union, but believes imposing sanctions on Syria, including the European Union’s latest ones, is wrong. These sanctions are unilateral and violate the Syria resolutions of the UN Security Council and the decisions of the Geneva conference on Syria.”

Mr Lavrov also said that the West’s refusal to denounce last Wednesday’s Damascus terror attack that killed several Syrian Ministers amounts to turning a blind eye to terrorism and endorsing it:

“American UN Ambassador Susan Rice said that attacks of this kind create a situation in which the UN Security Council must approve action envisaged by Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Ms Rice’s words sounded as an encouragement for the Syrian-based terrorists to press ahead with their campaign as long as it takes to convince the Council to approve such action, which might include intervention. This stance can only be described as hair-raising and awful. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland recently described the opposition’s terror attacks as an expected response to the kind of behavior that is displayed by the Assad regime. I believe her words amount to a justification (and endorsement) of terrorism.”

The Russian Minister strictly advised the US not to gloat over the opposition’s seizure of many of Syria’s border crossings into Turkey. He said the fighters who attacked these crossings were mostly members of Al Qaeda, rather than of the Free Syrian Army, and the US would have second thoughts some day.

Mr Kozakou-Marcoullis recalled the 1970s exodus from Lebanon and said her country would again have to house thousands of refugees in the event Syria went downhill and imploded.

The Cyprus Problem and the Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the EU were also on the agenda, as well as developments pertaining to the negotiations for a new agreement between EU and the Russian Federation, the Visa dialogue and cooperation on foreign policy issues.

Speaking on Tuesday, she said that Cyprus’s capacity to tackle the refugee problem is very limited, but Cyprus would do everything in its power to evacuate EU nationals from Syria, if they found themselves under threat.

On Wednesday morning, Turkey closed its border with Syria. International rights campaigners have already called attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees who remain stuck in squalid camps located near their country’s border with Turkey.

At their Moscow talks, Mr Lavrov and Mrs Kozakou-Marcoullis agreed, among other things, that expanding Russia-EU cooperation in all fields supposes visa-free travel between Russia and the European Union. Mr Lavrov said he believed Russia and the EU have all they need to resolve this problem within 18 months.

The visit is part of the regular political dialogue and the relevant provisions of the Protocol of Political Consultations between the two Ministries. Within this context, the Political Consultations Program was signed between the two Foreign Ministries, as a consultation of the existing Political Consultations Program for the years 2010-2011. The program aims to further develop the level of coordination between different Directorate of the two Foreign Ministries.

Both Ministers reviewed the level of bilateral relations between the two countries, with emphasis on the degree of the three-year Action Plan 2010-2013 between the governments of the Republic of Cyprus and the Russian Federation, which sets targets for strengthening the bilateral and multilateral contractual framework of their relations. Furthermore, the two Ministers also discuss ways for further deepening and widening the multifaceted spectrum of cooperation between the two nations.

Dr. Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis departs Moscow on July 26, for Sarajevo.



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