Tsipras takes cautious line on Cyprus

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday pledged to throw the new Greek government’s weight behind efforts to hammer out a reunification deal on Cyprus, while vowing to take “cautious” steps in delineating an exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

During a visit to Nicosia for talks with President Nicos Anastasiades – in what was his first foreign trip since his election victory on January 25 – Tsipras affirmed that Greece remained committed to a peace deal on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation as laid out in UN Security Council resolutions.

A solution, the leftist leader said, would be a “litmus test” for Greek-Turkish relations and the broader region.

Asked about plans to carve out the EEZs of Greece and Cyprus, Tsipras said that the new government – a coalition between left-wing SYRIZA and nationalist Independent Greeks – was willing to make radical changes, but was wary of making hasty decisions that could have unpredictable consequences.

Tsipras slammed Turkey for “breaching international law” by sending the Barbaros research vessel into Cyprus’s EEZ, adding that the two states had agreed to coordinate action to end Ankara’s provocations so that negotiations could resume.

Tsipras and Anastasiades also agreed to join efforts to build a bridge between Europe and Russia, currently estranged over Ukraine. “Greece and Cyprus can become a bridge of peace and cooperation between the EU and Russia,” said Tsipras who, however, denied seeking financial aid from Moscow. “We are in substantial negotiations with our partners in Europe and those we have borrowed from. We have obligations towards them,” he said in response to a journalist’s question. “Right now, there are no other thoughts on the table,” he added.

On Friday, Moscow suggested it would consider offering financial aid to Greece, a few days after Athens had voiced reservations over EU sanctions on Russia.