Liar, liar pants on fire

2 mins read

Cyprus has proven this week that its strategic location makes it an invaluable partner and friend in the region, even if it likes to cut financial corners.

During the week, Britain evacuated over 900 of its citizens from Sudan through Cyprus in a frantic rush to get people out.

Nicosia agreed to a UK request to use the island as a transit hub to receive British nationals and get them on charter flights as quickly and smoothly as possible.

RAF aircraft departed from its base in Cyprus to extract Brits at risk as Sudan fell apart under a civil war.

It was a good opportunity to show that Cyprus still matters in the region and can be of service to its friends and allies.

Especially when it’s a matter of getting Britons, Americans and European citizens evacuated from a war zone.

Also, the government needed a way of removing 20-odd Cypriots from the firing line in a scramble to get foreigners out of Sudan.

Although Cyprus has again proved itself useful, critics argued that in a rush to get people out, there was little thought about getting humanitarian supplies into a country where people can’t access food or water.

British passport holders arriving at Larnaca airport also had to leave loved ones behind who didn’t possess approved travel documents.

Those arriving with tales of horror and trepidation also mixed with the sun-seeking tourists that Cyprus is more famous for.

This is probably why Cyprus agreed to be a transition hub as long as the evacuees were only on the ground for a matter of hours rather than days.

And the government might need to save the congratulatory messages from the UK and the US for the next round of names on the Russia sanction-busting list.

London and Washington have targeted Cypriots and Cyprus-based companies for enabling Russian oligarchs to sidestep sanctions imposed on pro-Kremlin sympathisers.

As Russia turns up the dial in Ukraine in a seemingly unwinnable war, the international community seeks to isolate those propping up Putin’s war machine.

There are fears that several more law and accounting firms will be named and shamed for violating sanctions against Moscow.

Due to the close ties of the service sector to wealthy Russians and their companies, many law and audit firms have provided services to those who have been sanctioned.

The sanctions mess has put the government in a spin while trying to put out fires before the island’s reputation as a financial centre is worth less than copies of the Annan Plan.

Criminal activity

If more names are added to the pile, it would suggest that Cyprus is lax in monitoring shady transactions.

It also has a poor track record after Nicosia was accused of selling Cyprus passports to criminals, especially wealthy Russians.

Arguably, there wasn’t much of a reputation to save, but a huge restoration effort needs to be launched.

Financial and legal services are a huge driver of the economy, with hundreds of jobs at stake.

To become a valued friend of the Americans, the government has had to put on its game face when dealing with Russia.

And just when it was walking a fine line between the two superpowers, the Russian cultural centre went up in flames.

While firefighters doused the flames, some Russian officials quickly suggested it was a ‘terror attack’.

There were claims of eyewitnesses – who have yet to come forward – seeing Molotov cocktails thrown at the building.

Cypriot authorities said there was no evidence to suggest it was a terror attack but have been reluctant to say it was an accident categorically.

Amid the wild speculation, the government has seemed tentative about killing the rumour mill by giving a more reasoned explanation.

Either there were signs of arson, or it was an avoidable accident – authorities seemed paralysed to make public statements due to the political sensitivity.

The indecision only sparks more conspiracy theories as critics will claim it smacks of a cover-up, either way.

Surely, Cyprus wants to dispel any notion that it allows attacks on Russian interests with impunity – so why the dithering?

Is it because the Americans want to analyse the evidence before it goes public, or were their Ukrainian sympathisers among the renovation crew?

You see what’s happening here…