Russia has signed an agreement to dock its naval vessels at Cypriot ports, amid escalating tensions with the West over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades, it will allow Russian ships participating in counter-terrorism and anti-piracy missions to make regular port calls in Cyprus.
Putin was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We signed a number of documents regarding our military cooperation.
"For example regarding the entrance of our ships to Cypriot port. Our friendly ties aren’t aimed against anyone. I don’t think this should worry anyone."
President Anastasiades told Tass News Agency that the country will explore ways to advance defence cooperation with Russia, including the possibility of Russian warplanes using a Cypriot air base near Paphos for humanitarian relief missions.
An undisclosed Cyprus Government official said the agreement is first time the access has been made public.
Tass News Agency reported last year that Moscow was in talks with eight countries to use their military facilities for extending its long-range naval and strategic bomber capabilities.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed that the country was seeking permission from Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Algeria, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Vietnam and Singapore for access to bases when required.
According to Reuters, the need to access Mediterranean ports increased after Russia evacuated its naval maintenance facility in the Syrian port of the city of Tartus in 2013, in the wake of the Syrian civil war.
The agreement with Cyprus is accompanied by Russia’s commitment to restructure the €2.5bn bailout loan it provided to the country in 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported.