C O N F I D E N T I A L NICOSIA 000077
DEPARTMENT FOR EUR, NEA, ISN, P
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/29/2019
TAGS: PARM PREL MNUC SY IR CY
SUBJECT: CYPRUS: GOVERNMENT SEEKING MUTUALLY-PALATABLE END
REF: A. NICOSIA 75
Â¶B. NICOSIA 73
Â¶C. NICOSIA 58
Classified By: Ambassador Frank C. Urbancic, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
Â¶1. (C) Ship Status: M/V Monchegorsk remains at anchorage in
the Limassol port. Cypriot maritime officials have conducted
a cursory inspection, finding large quantities of high
explosive on board. RoC officials promise a more thorough
inspection is forthcoming.
Â¶2. (C) Diplomatic Activity: The Ambassador at 1545 hrs
local (0845 DC) telephoned Presidential Diplomatic
Coordinator Leonidas Pantelides seeking the latest on the M/V
Monchegorsk recall. Pantelides responded that Cypriot
officials were inspecting the ship now and "would find what
you found." He was unsure what the government would do once
it discovered military materiel, however. Pantelides made
clear the RoC understood it could not let the ship reach
Syria. Yet it also aimed to prevent Iranian/Syrian goods
being stuck on its territory.
Â¶3. (C) Brainstorming, the RoC diplomat floated the
possibility of transferring the cargo to the United Nations
in some creative way. UNFICYP likely was out, owing to its
restrictive mandate; also, transfer to UNFICYP likely would
require bringing the materiel on land, which the government
hoped to avoid. But might UNIFIL be a possibility?
Pantelides ventured. That UN mission runs its sea operations
out of Limassol. He questioned whether the Monchegorsk's
haul could be transferred to a German ship operating under
the UN flag, and taken out of Cyprus.
Â¶4. (C) Ambassador welcomed the creative thinking and
promised to follow up with Washington. He emphasized that
the aim of the USG was not to punish Cyprus, but to prevent
an illegal Iranian arms export. Pantelides responded by
noting he would continue to be in close communication with
the Embassy. He would wait for any other U.S. proposals that
might allow the RoC to remove the materiel from Cyprus
without it ending up in Syria.
Â¶5. (C) Comment: The RoC is clearly feeling the heat and
wants to avoid a confrontation with Syria and Iran.
Pantelides worries, with reason, that the Monchegorsk
incident will break soon into the contentious Cypriot press,
and he is looking for a way out before it becomes an
embarrassment to the government. From their perspective,
some sort of UN cover would make "doing the right thing"
easier and more palatable, since the very hardest political
pill for the RoC to swallow would be off-loading the cargo on
land while its final disposition is decided. We leave to
Washington and New York experts the determination of whether
Pantelides's UNIFIL idea, or some other arrangement involving
the UN, will fly.