NICOSIA, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus's commerce parliamentary committee called on the government on Tuesday to ask the European Union (EU) for exemptions from some of its sanctions against Russia, citing their negative impact on the country's economy.
Committee Chair Michalis Hadjiyiannis said that the government should first and foremost ask for the lifting of the ban on flights to and from Russia.
He said the economy was bound to suffer extensively due to its heavy dependence on tourism.
Hadjiyiannis said that government officials who testified during the committee meeting said that Cyprus' tourism sector stands to lose up to one million tourists from Russia and Ukraine as a result of the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the EU's sanctions against Moscow.
A Finance Ministry official told the committee that tourist arrivals are already 30 to 40 percent below 2019 figures, the last normal year before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when an all-time high of nearly 4 million tourist arrivals was recorded.
Tourism from Russia and Ukraine accounted for over 25 percent of the total in 2019.
According to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) survey, Cyprus's economy is very much dependent on tourism-related industries. Tourism's direct and indirect contribution totaled 2.7 billion euros (2.84 billion U.S. dollars), or nearly 14 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.
According to Hadjiyiannis, several Cyprus-based Russian businesses have closed down and moved elsewhere since the introduction of EU sanctions, resulting in thousands of jobs lost.
Along with Greece and Malta, Cyprus is also opposed to the ban on EU-registered tankers transporting Russian oil to third countries, which is included in the proposed sixth package of sanctions still under discussion in Brussels.
Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades has said that it is necessary for the EU "to take into account the concerns of Greece, Malta and of course Cyprus in specific matters relating to the sanctions."
"Sanctions should be targeted and not selective in serving some member states and leaving others exposed," Anastasiades said after his recent talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Athens.