NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprus' president on Monday sharply rebuked the U.S. ambassador on the Mediterranean island for a tweet he claims linked his visit to Russia to the assassination of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades concluded a four-day visit to Russia on Feb. 28, hours after Nemtsov was killed. U.S. Ambassador John Koenig asked on Twitter: "What do people in #Cyprus think about the week in Russia as seen from here? Anastasiades visit and statements, #Nemtsov assassination?"
Anastasiades on Monday called Koenig's tweet "exceedingly undiplomatic," saying that any diplomat who creates "icy" bilateral relations doesn't do any service to either this country, or the country he's posted to.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides called it "unfortunate at the very least" and that it "exceeds the bounds of diplomacy."
Even the head of the island's influential Greek Orthodox Christian Church, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, chimed in, saying the Cypriot government should ask that Koenig be recalled.
Koenig later said in a statement that his question was misunderstood, that he simply wanted Cypriots' reaction on "two different issues" and that he didn't intend to make any such link. Koenig's Cyprus posting ends this summer.
While in Moscow, Anastasiades signed a deal allowing Russian navy ships to make regular port calls in European Union member Cyprus and proclaimed the island as Russia's "most credible voice" within the 28-member bloc. The agreement came amid strong Russia-West tensions over Ukraine, the worst since the times of the Cold War.
Anastasiades had given Cyprus' policy line a clear pro- U.S. and Europe orientation, but he has also sought not to alienate Russia on which Cyprus relies for tourism income and political support in talks to reunify the ethnically-split country.
He has also been critical of what he saw as a tepid response by some "friendly countries" over a Turkish search for oil and gas in waters where the Cypriot government has already licensed other companies to drill.