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By Peter Stevenson MEMBERS of Volunteer Doctors Cyprus have treated around 350 people at their free clinic in Nicosia since it opened three months ago, while two more, one in Paphos and one in Polis are due to open today. Limassol also has a free clinic, which was opened only last month, and plans have been drawn ...
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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Cyprus in unenviable position regarding ship’s cargo ]

Cyprus in unenviable position regarding ship’s cargo

THE PRESSURE is off the Cyprus government, for a few days, as the report about the cargo of Russian-owned ship Monchegorsk is now with the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. In the unlikely event that the Committee reaches a unanimous decision, it would help the government out of the very difficult position it finds itself in.

The government has two options – either to confiscate the cargo on the grounds that its transfer was in violation of UN sanctions or to allow the Monchegorsk to leave Limassol with its cargo. Whichever option it chooses would cause problems for our relations with powerful countries. Confiscating the cargo would put a strain on good relations with Russia, which is considered a very close ally by President Christofias, as was evident from his Moscow visit last year.

The other option – allowing the ship to leave with its cargo – would spark a strong reaction from the US government, whose navy had escorted the Monchegorsk to Cyprus waters because it had reliable information that it was carrying arms. In addition to this, in 2005 Cyprus and the US signed the Treaty of the Proliferation of Security Initiatives which provides for the seizing of any ship under any flag with the aim of preventing the movement of weapons of mass destruction.

Media speculation suggested that the Russian-owned ship was carrying conventional weaponry and nothing that could be described as a weapon of mass destruction. Even if this is the case it would not be very easy for the government to use it as justification for allowing the ship to sail when the US had already decided that the cargo had to be confiscated because it was a security threat.

Things have not been helped by the meddling of the Israeli government, which has urged the Cyprus government to confiscate the cargo. Some media reports have claimed that the arms cargo would be going to Hamas via Syria which is why Israel has taken such a big interest and has been calling on the government to act. Christofias was correct in questioning Israel’s right to call for the confiscation of the cargo. “On what grounds are the Israelis making demands of us?” he asked on Monday night. “They have no right,” he concluded.

Other than this perfectly legitimate comment, the government has surprised everyone with its sensible handling of the affair and its refusal to turn it into a public issue or an excuse for defiant rhetoric. The spokesman has restricted himself to giving some basic facts about the issue and stressing the need for delicate handling by the government (if only they could exercise a similarly low-key and responsible approach to other important issues such as the talks).

We hope that some compromise formula is found by the UN Sanctions Committee and Cyprus would be spared the unenviable responsibility of having to make the final decision about the ship’s cargo, because whatever it chooses to do would have negative consequences.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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