LARNARCA, Cyprus, June 24 (UPI) — Financially strapped Cyprus is looking at allowing Russian military aircraft to use an airbase in Paphos, the country’s defense minister said this weekend.
Cypriot Defense Minister Fotis Fotiu told the Nicosia daily Fileleftheros the country was “studying the possibility of providing in certain cases” the use of the Andreas Papandreou Air Force Base for Russian military aircraft.
He also indicated allowing Russian warships to use the port of Limassol was under consideration, less than two weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the restoration of a permanent presence for the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean.
Fotiu said the possible moves were discussed during his recent meeting in Moscow with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as well as at a Thursday meeting in St. Petersburg between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Cypriot counterpart Ioannis Kasoulides.
“But what I want to make clear is that no discussion about a permanent base in Cyprus for Russia, and to make it clear, I repeat, no ‘exchange’ principle.”
Allowing Russian forces to use the Cypriot port and airbase is natural because of “historical ties” between the countries, he said, adding, “Russia supports Cyprus and our close relationship will not only continue, but also to deepen.”
Asked if use of the Paphos airbase will be granted only to Russia or other countries as well, the defense chief noted the only other agreement for Andreas Papandreou is with France, which dates to 2007.
Russia’s military interest in the Cypriot facilities comes as Putin revealed Moscow was stepping up its presence in the Mediterranean as the Syrian crisis continues unabated.
The Russian Defense Ministry indicated its new Mediterranean naval task force will include about 10 ships taken from the North, Baltic and Black Sea fleets on a rotational basis, Pravda said.
Full article: Cyprus considering Russian military use of airbase, port facilities (UPI Asia)