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Cyprus signs deal allowing Russian navy ships to make port calls at the Mediterranean island

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MOSCOW — Cyprus on Wednesday signed a deal with Russia allowing its navy ships to make regular port calls on the divided Mediterranean island.

The deal with European Union member Cyprus, which also hosts British military bases, comes amid strong Russia-West tensions over Ukraine, the worst since the Cold War times.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said after Wednesday's talks with visiting Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades that the agreement primarily refers to Russian navy ships involved in international counter-terrorism and anti-piracy efforts. He added that military cooperation between Russia and Cyprus isn't directed against any third party.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meets with Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Presidential Press Service)

"Our friendly ties aren't aimed against anyone," Putin said. "I don't think it should cause worries anywhere."

Russia has sought permission for its navy ships to use ports around the world to replenish supplies and undergo maintenance, deals that allow Moscow to expand its global military presence.

Russian ships already have made stops at the Greek Cypriot port of Limassol, but the new agreement apparently aims to create a more solid legal basis for that.

Speaking to the Tass news agency before his trip, Anastasiades said Cyprus and Russia were also discussing the possibility of Russian planes using a Cypriot air base near the town of Paphos for humanitarian relief missions.

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PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks at a joint news conference with Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades, left,  in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov, Pool)
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