Arab Today, arab today business leaders cyprus unaffected by ukrainian crisis yet
Last Updated : GMT 12:19:39
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Business leaders: Cyprus unaffected by Ukrainian crisis yet

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Arab Today, arab today Business leaders: Cyprus unaffected by Ukrainian crisis yet

Nicosia - XINHUA

Cyprus has not yet felt any noticeable effects from the Ukrainian crisis and sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow, Cypriot business officials told Xinhua on Thursday. There have been numerable warnings in recent days that Cyprus could be at the receiving end of fallout from the crisis following Crimea joining Russia. The International Monetary Fund, which joined the Eurogroup in providing a 10 billion euros (13.75 billion euros) bailout to Cyprus, recently pointed out potential risks for the eastern Mediterranean island's economy. It said in its latest report on Cyprus that "the Ukraine crisis may lead to capital flight from non-resident depositors of foreign banks in Cyprus, which may affect the business service sector." Also, the outgoing governor of the Central Bank of Cyprus, Panicos Demetriades, warned that worsening tensions between the West and especially between the European Union and Russia could hit tourism -- the steam engine of the Cypriot economy. Services could also take a hit should thousands of Russians living in Cyprus heed Russian President Vladimir Putin's call to Russian businesses to repatriate in response to western sanctions. "I do not believe that any Russian businesses will leave Cyprus. There may even be and increased presence of Russian businessmen on the island," Andreas Neocleous, who heads one of the largest legal firms offering advice to Russian investors in Cyprus, told Xinhua. Neocleous operates from his firm's headquarters in the southern port city of Limassol, where about 40,000 Russians live -- the largest concentration of Russian citizens after London. Neocleous said Russian businessmen have been part of the society for a long time and would not be willing to go back. Michael Pilikos, the director general of the Employers and Industrialists Federation, agreed there had been no significant effects on the Cypriot economy but cautioned that developments should be followed closely. There is another reason for Cypriots to be relaxed about the continued presence of Russians in Cyprus -- close cultural and religious bonds which go back in history to the Byzantine era. In fact, the Russian Cyrillic alphabet was invented and given to the Slavic peoples by two Byzantine Greek brother monks Cyrillus and Methodius almost 1,200 years ago. The Russian ambassador to Cyprus, Stanislav Osadchiy, said at the end of a recent round of meetings with Cypriot party leaders that these ties would survive any political considerations. Osadchiy said Moscow could understand that Cyprus, as a member of the European Union had to go along with the EU decision to impose sanctions on a total of 33 people it said were connected to the "Russian seizure of Crimea." The Cypriot foreign ministry said that only "two or three people" had their assets in Cyprus frozen under the sanctions, which were meaningless in their case as the deposits in Cypriot banks were blocked by restrictions on bank transactions brought in after last year's shake-down of the banking system. A more serious blow for Cyprus would be a general visa moratorium for Russians traveling to European countries, as this would hit the blooming tourist business. Pilikos said a visa ban on Russians would be a very long shot. "Cyprus is only fifth in terms of tourism from Russia and EU countries which receive a much larger share of Russian tourists would not be willing to adopt measures which would hurt themselves," he said. Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) data for 2013 showed that Russian visitors to Cyprus were only second to visitors from the United Kingdom, the island's primary tourist market. Tourists from Russia topped 600,000 last year. The CTO expects a 25 percent increase this year, raising hopes that tourism once again will help Cyprus to flout EU and IMF projections of a 5.4 contraction of the economy this year. Pilikos said a recent survey showed there had not been cancellations by Russian tourist operators up to now, despite a devaluation of the ruble by about 20 percent and the target of a 25 percent increase has not been revised. However, both he and Marios Tsiakkis, the secretary general of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the predicted 80 percent increase of tourism from Ukraine would be unattainable. They pointed out that Ukrainian tourists numbered just 35,000 last year, so any reduction would not have any significant effect. Still, they expect a 10 to 15 percent increase of tourists from Ukraine, barring any unforeseen developments. They also said a close watch was needed on the Russian currency, because higher devaluation would make it necessary to adjust the price of tourism packages.

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