BUSINESS

Sarris to continue talks in Moscow after inconclusive first round on Cyprus deal

Cypriot Finance Minister Michalis Sarris has cancelled a news conference due at noon Greek time on Wednesday in order to continue talks with Russian officials in Moscow.

Sarris said on Wednesday morning after talks with his counterpart Anton Siluanov that there had been no decision after a first round of discussions.

"We had a very honest discussion, we've underscored how difficult the situation is," Sarris told reporters as he was leaving after talks with Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov.

"We'll now continue our discussion to find the solution by which we hope we will be getting some support."

"There were no offers, nothing concrete... We're happy with a good beginning," he said.

Nicosia has asked Moscow to extend the maturity of an existing 2.5-billion-euro loan, due in 2016, by five years. It is also asking for the 4.5 percent interest rate to be reduced.

Beyond that, there is speculation that Cyprus will ask Russia to contribute towards the recapitalization of at least one local bank. Representatives of the island’s most troubled lender, Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki), are also in Moscow, according to Cypriot state broadcaster RIK.

Cypriot Trade Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis is also in Moscow.

Russian billionaire and politician Mikhail Prokhorov is reported to have expressed certainty that Russia’s private sector could help Cyprus tackle its economic problems.

“If we think that the economic crisis in Cyprus and the European Union does not affect Russia, we are making a big mistake,” he said, according to the Cyprus News Agency.

It is likely the Russians will ask for some form of compensation for such an investment. A naval port in Cyprus for the Russian fleet and access to the country’s natural gas reserves are among the rewards Moscow might seek.

Some reports suggested Russian oil and gas behemoth Gazprom had mooted its own assistance plan, in exchange for exploration rights to Cyprus's offshore gas deposits.

Noble Energy reported a natural gas recovery of 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet of gas south of Cyprus in late 2011, in the island's first foray to tap offshore resources.

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