|09NICOSIA58||2009-01-27 12:43:00||SECRET||Embassy Nicosia|
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 NICOSIA 000058
1. (S) SUMMARY: It is becoming evident that the Republic of
Cyprus, likely fearing Cyprus Problem-related "reprisals"
from Damascus, hopes to avoid having to interdict and/or
divert to an RoC port the M/V Monchegorsk, a Cypriot-flagged,
Russian-owned ocean freighter carrying arms from Iran to
Syria in contravention of UN Security Council Resolutions
1747 and 1803 (Ref A). Presidential Diplomatic Coordinator
Leonidas Pantelides informed the Ambassador at 1215 hrs local
(0515 DC) on January 27 that Cyprus had requested the ship's
owner to radio the master to divert to Limassol, but as yet
had received no response. "This is all that we can do,"
Pantelides insisted. At its present speed and direction, the
Monchegorsk will reach Syria by 2330 Zulu January 27. END
Current Status of Vessel, Shipping Company:
2. (S) U.S. Navy sources told the Embassy that the
Monchegorsk, at its current heading and 11-knot speed, should
reach Latakeia, Syria, its final destination, by 2330 hrs
Zulu January 27. NSA contacts report the ship has not
received or transmitted radio messages recently (NFI).
Embassy interlocutors at the Cyprus Shipping Chamber report
that NB Shipping Limited, a Limassol company still listed as
the registered owner of the Monchegorsk, recently came close
to losing its right to fly the Cyprus flag for unrelated
non-compliance with national maritime standards.
High-level Local Diplomatic Activity:
3. (S) In last 24 hours, the Embassy has engaged chief
Palace diplomat Pantelides (three times), Presidential
Commissioner/chief Cyprus Problem negotiator George Iacovou,
and MFA Permanent Secretary (D-equivalent) Nicolas Emiliou,
drawing liberally on the legal arguments provided in Ref B
(these calls were in addition to the direct demarche the
Ambassador had made to RoC President Demetris Christofias on
January 23). Pantelides at 1100 hrs on January 27 confirmed
that a recall of the Monchegorsk to Limassol had been issued,
but no response had yet been received. Under the Cypriot
standard operating procedure, the Merchant Shipping
Department had notified the owners, who were ultimately
responsible for making the ship pull into port -- there was
no direct RoC contact with the ship (an Embassy contact in
the shipping industry later confirmed the SOP). The
Ambassador emphasized the obligations of Cyprus as the flag
state to take action, and noted Washington's
highest-possible-level interest. Pantelides seemingly hoped
to keep the Monchegorsk out of United Nations Security
Council discussions, and queried whether the Monchegorsk
issue was already under consideration in New York.
4. (S) In a 1215 hrs follow-up telcon, Pantelides referred
back to Ref B points and stated his government had "done what
it needed to do" in alerting the Monchegorsk's owner; he
subsequently faxed us text from the RoC instruction (below).
The Ambassador asked whether Cyprus could use the assistance
of the United States in contacting the ship directly to make
Cyprus's instructions known to the captain, or otherwise
provide additional help. Pantelides deflected both
questions, making clear the RoC did not want the U.S.
involved. "The Monchegorsk is already half-way there," he
ended, somewhat cryptically.
5. (S) Text of the RoC message follows. The fax was not on
letterhead, lacked sender and receiver names, titles, and
addresses, and featured visible cut-and-paste marks. It was
obviously just a short excerpt from the notification letter.
"Dear Captain Smirnov
The reason that we ask you to direct the ship to Limassol is
to ensure that its cargo is in conformity with UN Security
Council Resolutions 1747 (2007) and 1803 (2008).
Any cargo which is not in conformity has to be unloaded at
Limassol in order to avoid infringement of the above
Resolutions and violation of the Cyprus Ships (Prohibition of
Transportation) Laws 1966-1971 (Law 26/66 as amended).
Why the Cold Feet?
6. (C) COMMENT: Greek Cypriots learn Security Council
resolutions like others learn their ABCs -- early and by
heart. No country pays more lip service to their status at
the top of the international pyramid. Why, then, the seeming
disregard for RoC obligations under 1747 and 1803? Contacts
ranging from President Christofias to worker bees at the MFA
informed us that Cyprus's 2006 decision to interdict the M/V
Gregorio, a vessel carrying missile radar equipment from
North Korea to Syria, had caused grave damage to its
bilateral relations with Damascus. The Syrians had responded
by green-lighting regular ferry service between Latakeia and
the "occupied" port of Famagusta in the "Turkish Republic of
Northern Cyprus." Highest-level RoC entreaties have failed
to compel Damascus to end the sea link, one of the few clear
diplomatic blows the Cypriots have taken recently. They
worry that further government action against the Monchegorsk
might provoke Damascus to take further steps to "upgrade" the