Russia black money allegations by senior British diplomat provoke furious row

Cyprus President reacts to being snubbed from Queen’s funeral

The senior British diplomat in the divided island of Cyprus has provoked a second major row on the island by alleging that Russia is channelling black money to avoid sanctions into the northern part of the island.

British High Commissioner to Cyprus Irfan Siddiq has infuriated the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) with his allegations that it has become a focal point for money laundering particularly for Russia.

It is understood that the comments have angered Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s government and could come up in discussions with the prime minister at a future date.

It also created problems ahead of informal talks in New York at the United Nations about Cyprus.

Speaking exclusively to Ersin Tatar, the President of Northern Cyprus, who is due to be in New York for meetings at the UN, said: “Where is his proof? It is absolutely outrageous he should make these claims about us.

“The allegations are completely untrue and it is just another example of [Siddiq’s] extraordinary bias to the Greek Cypriots.

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“I really do not understand why this man is so prejudiced against us. It is very disappointing.”

The President, who is not formally recognised by the UK, added: “The British are supposed to be a guarantor power on Cyprus and listen to both sides but they seem to only take the Greek’s side at the moment.”

According to the Cypriot news outlet, Siddiq said “[The Republic of] Cyprus has a consensus to enforce sanctions against Russia to restore its reputation, but the Turkish-occupied north is a money laundering black spot.

Siddiq was replying to a question on money laundering allegations through the north of the island and the international community’s lack of sanctions on Turkey during a round-table discussion with foreign ambassadors at the 21st World Conference of Cyprus Diaspora.

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However, the Foreign Office has disputed some of the claims in the news report but not the central claim that he had identified Northern Cyprus as a potentiual spot for money laundering by Russia and others.

An FCDO source said: “The UK’s policy on Cyprus is long-standing, well-documented and remains unchanged, and we continue to fully recognise the 1960 Treaty concerning the Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

“The High Commissioner raised concerns about the problem of illicit finance in the ‘TRNC’ and the lack of cooperation from the authorities.

“He described this situation as a ‘black hole’, not a ‘black spot’.

“He did not say that ‘shady financial practices in the RoC had been cleaned up’.

“He did not say that the UK ‘engaged with the authorities in the north to ensure the consequences of these activities did not negatively impact the Republic’.”

Previously, Siddiq infuriated Turkish Cypriots by suggesting that they had lost their rights over Turkey’s intervention in 1974 which was seen in the north as an attempt to protect them from ethnic cleansing by Greek Cypriots.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when the Turkish army intervened after a coup in Cyprus saw Greek nationalists attempt to unite the island with Greece.

The fighting at the time saw Greek Cypriots attack Turkish Cypriots and the island has been divided since a truce was called in August that year.

The TRNC which declared independence in 1983, has not been recognised by the UK or the international community apart from Turkey and Cyprus, supported by the UN, claims the north part of the island is “occupied”.

However, the last serious attempt to create a federal solution on the island with a plan by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was accepted by the TRNC but rejected by the Greek Cypriots in 2004.

Britain is a guarantor power for the two communities and future of the island because of its previous status as the colonial power up to 1960 and continued ownership of the two military bases on the island.

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