BERLIN – A leader of Germany's opposition Greens said on Wednesday Cyprus should not turn to Russia for financial aid because this could give Moscow "a foot in the door" of the European Union and harm Turkey's chances of membership.
Cem Oezdemir, co-chair of the Greens who are likely to be the third biggest party in Germany's parliament after a federal election in September, told German radio he wished Nicosia had not rejected the terms of an EU bailout late on Tuesday.
"I would probably not have voted 'no' if I'd been in the southern Cypriot parliament because of the possible consequences and because I don't think Cyprus should align itself with Russia," said Oezdemir, who is of Turkish origin.
After the Cypriot parliament rejected a levy on bank deposits as a condition of a 10 billion euro bailout, there is mounting speculation Russia could step in with a rescue plan to safeguard the high level of Russian deposits in Cypriot banks.
Cypriot Finance Minister Michael Sarris was in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the island's request for a five-year extension of an existing 2.5 billion euro Russian loan.
"We know this is not just about Russian money but Russia's geostrategic interest in the island," said Oezdemir. "It can't be in the interests of Europe for it to have a foot in the door of an EU member state and thereby have an influence on the expansion of the European Union."
Oezdemir, part of a community of about three million people of Turkish extraction living in Germany, has proposed making a bailout for Cyprus conditional on reviving talks about reunification of the island divided since 1974.
Turkey invaded northern Cyprus in 1974 in response to a brief Athens-backed coup in Nicosia by Greek Cypriot hardliners seeking union with Greece. The east Mediterranean island has been divided ever since.
Reunification eluded negotiators when Cyprus joined the bloc in 2004. Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of a U.N. plan but Greek Cypriots rejected it in a referendum. The new Cypriot president, Nicos Anastasiades, supported Kofi Annan's proposal for a loose federation between north and south at the time.
"If we did tackle the reunification of the island of Cyprus with President Anastasiades it would revive accession talks with Turkey and give an incredible boost to the European process," said Oezdemir.
"I am not sure that is also in Russia's interests. So I have no interest in Russia being in almost co-government in an EU member state. I don't want to negotiate with Moscow when I talk about Cyprus and the eastern Mediterranean. I want to talk within the European Union, which is where this issue belongs."
The fifth biggest party in the Bundestag lower house since the 2009 German election, the Greens have seen their support surge to 15 percent in recent polls from 10.7 percent then.
Along with the main centre-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens support Turkey's eventual membership of the EU, unlike Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, who would prefer to offer Ankara a special partnership instead.
(Reporting by Stephen Brown, editing by Gareth Jones)