Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 135

Russia’s Foreign Ministry yesterday warned Turkey against involving “third countries” in Ankara’s efforts to halt the delivery of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Cyprus. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement claimed that Turkey was orchestrating an “anti-Russian campaign” over the missiles. (Russian agencies, July 14) The Russian complaint presumably referred to reports in the Turkish media earlier this week, which said that Turkish military aircraft had trained in Israel for operations aimed at destroying the Russian-made S-300s should they be deployed in Cyprus. The Russian Foreign Ministry also quoted what it said was a statement by Israel’s government denying that Turkish-Israeli military cooperation was aimed at Russia.

Yesterday’s sparring between Moscow and Ankara came as the president of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides, wound up a four-day unofficial visit to the Russian capital. In a concluding press conference, Clerides again applauded his country’s friendly relations with Russia. He also made clear Nicosia’s desire to buy additional military hardware–including “various types of armored vehicles”–from Russia.

News sources also quoted Clerides as saying again that the S-300 deal with Russia could still be canceled. But that would apparently depend on the immediate commencement of talks between Turkey and the Greek-Cypriot government over the demilitarization of the island of Cyprus, and a gradual drawdown of troops and armaments on the island by both sides. Turkey currently maintains some 40,000 troops on Cyprus. They are said to be defending the Turkish-Cypriot community on the northern part of the island.

Clerides also reportedly said that Nicosia would pay for the S-300s even in the unlikely event that the start of settlement talks made their delivery unnecessary. But reports differed on whether the Cypriot president had confirmed that delivery of the missiles–originally scheduled to start this summer–had been postponed until the fall. Some reports suggested that this was the case, but others said that the original schedule would be maintained. A spokesman for the Russian state arms trading company Rosvooruzhenie said yesterday that the first batch of components for the S-300s would indeed be sent to Cyprus in August. (Itar-Tass, AP, Xinhua, July 14) In June, the commander of Russia’s air force said that Moscow had still not decided whether the S-300s would be delivered to Cyprus by air or by sea. (Itar-Tass, June 15)