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Cypriot report Cypriot report
by Euro Reporter
2012-09-06 11:07:54
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Debt to be sustainable after bank aid

Cypriot finance minister Vassos Shiarly said rescue funds Cypriot banks will receive for their recapitalization are unlikely to make the government’s debt unsustainable, even as the bailout amount remains unspecified. “In our calculations we believe that there is no such risk,” Shiarly, a former executive at Bank of Cyprus Plc, the country’s largest lender, said in an interview in Nicosia yesterday. “The amount required is not likely to exceed the amount that will push us into areas of lack of sustainability.”

The east Mediterranean island’s finance minister said that there is no agreement yet with the so-called troika, of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, on the exact amount which Cypriot lenders will require for their recapitalization. Shiarly said the amount needed which “has not yet been specified or agreed” is still being discussed. He said the exact amount required to recapitalize banks is harder to determine than what the state needs in order to refinance existing debt.

On June 25, Cyprus, which assumed the European Union’s rotating presidency in July, became the fifth of the euro area’s 17 member states to seek a rescue, following Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, after Cyprus Popular Bank Pcl, the country’s second-largest, sought government backing for a 1.8 billion-euro ($2.3 billion) right offering. Two days later, Bank of Cyprus, the island’s largest lender, sought 500 million Euros of government aid.

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Friction between EU and Cyprus under the spotlight

The Foreign Ministry has brushed off reports that the relationship between the Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou Markoullis and the EU High Representative for Foreign Relations Catherine Ashton has become “problematic.” According to a release, via the state news agency, the government in Nicosia has stressed that the relations between Cyprus and European External Action Service are ‘exceptional’ and the personal relations between Markoullis and Ashton are excellent. “On foreign policy issues I have stated repeatedly that the Cyprus Presidency aims to support the activities and initiatives of the HR and the EEAS” Marcoullis said.

However, fundamental disagreements over Cyprus siding with Russia over the Syrian issue and the possibility of Moscow again bailing out the island are well-known sore issues in Brussels. Last month the Russian Foreign Ministers Sergei Lavrov said that Cyprus and Moscow both agreed that the crisis in Syria must be settled without outside interference through a political dialogue between the Syrian sides. Lavrov then criticized the EU sanctions on Syria, saying they were: “Wrong”. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a source close to the Baroness Ashton described the relationship as “hard to define,” but dismissed it as being fractured. The situation is made worse as Cyprus is the current chair nation of the European Union and such public sidings with Moscow are proving unsettling to other EU countries, who are trying to portray a unified front on the conflict.

Friction between Brussels and Nicosia began in January, when the Foreign Ministry gave the green light for a Russian ship which was suspected of supplying arms to the Assad regime to leave port in Cyprus, after a brief detention by authorities. The ship was forced to dock for refuelling at Limassol, following bad weather, with local media reporting that at least 35 tons of munitions and explosive material were onboard, and even a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement confirmed that customs officials had discovered four containers and a generator in the hold. The release came despite a strict arms embargo on Syria in reaction to the Assad government's crackdown on the country's democracy movement. Last week Marcoullis demanded an explanation from the United Kingdom regarding media reports that their military bases in Cyprus might be aiding Syrian rebels with vital intelligence information.

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Cyprus government to improve control at check-points

The government is looking into ways to improve control at check-points, along the ceasefire line, dividing Cyprus’ northern Turkish occupied areas from the southern government controlled part of the country, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment Sophocles Aletraris has said. In 2012, only three hundred tonnes of potatoes were transported legally from the occupied areas to the government controlled areas under the Green Line regulation, he noted.

He pointed out however that he is not in a position to know if any quantities have been channelled through other means.  "These quantities are too small, if you compare them to the production of potatoes in the government controlled areas of the Republic, which is 70 000 to 120 000 tonnes, depending on the year," he said speaking after a meeting of the House Committee on Trade. The Ministry, he explained, is examining ways to improve control at the check-points and would forward to the European Commission its concerns about the illegal use of pesticides on crops in the occupied areas.

Referring to data on potato trade through the check-points, the Minister said that 336 tonnes crossed in 2010, 110 in 2011 and 300 in 2012. The EU, which Cyprus joined in May 2004, in an effort to contribute to closer ties between the island’s two communities, adopted in 2004 the Green Line Regulation which defines the legal framework on the crossing of goods, persons and services to and from the island’s northern Turkish occupied areas.



        
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