Greek Cypriot president Glafcos Clerides yesterday denied reports that his country had agreed to delay the purchase of Russian-made air defense missiles as part of a deal brokered by U.S. envoy Carey Cavanaugh. Clerides said that, in fact, Cyprus had hoped to receive the S-300 missile complexes sooner, but that Russia required 16 months to make the delivery. The missile deal is estimated at $600 million, and has enraged Turkey. Clerides also suggested that little progress had been made in recent days on implementation of a U.N. sponsored package of measures aimed at reducing tensions on the island. Moreover, in another sign that the U.S. brokered talks may not have significantly lessened tensions in the region, the Turkish army’s chief of staff flew to Cyprus yesterday and declared that Ankara would defend the Turkish Cypriot community there if necessary. (Itar-Tass, Xinhua, UPI, January 14)
In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry press spokesman told reporters yesterday that Russia plans to "boost diplomatic efforts" in order to help resolve tensions on Cyprus. The official said that Russia intends to maintain contacts with countries involved in the island’s problems, including those that have reacted negatively to the missiles sale, and that Moscow might soon send its own representative to Cyprus. (Itar-Tass, January 14) Meanwhile, an unnamed Russian diplomat was quoted yesterday as suggesting that the fierce reaction of several top leaders in Turkey to the missile sale was in fact largely for public consumption. According to the official, Turkey is unlikely to take direct action against Cyprus or Moscow over the missile sale, despite the threats being voiced in Ankara. Indeed, the official suggested that Moscow’s own official rhetoric on the issue was exaggerated. He implied that improving — and increasingly lucrative — trade relations between Russia and Turkey would ensure that cooler heads prevail. (Interfax, January 14)
Russia’s Ground Forces Commander Still in Limbo.