Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 115

A Russian-Cypriot missile deal was back in the news yesterday as Turkish authorities said they had found seven mobile missile launch pads aboard a cargo ship stopped and inspected as it was entering the Dardanelles Strait. The officials reportedly suspect that the components might be part of a US$200 million missile deal by which Russia is to supply Cyprus with S-300 air defense missile complexes. The officials also said, however, that they would be able to determine the origin of the missiles only after an investigation. The ship in question was registered to Malta. A Russian diplomat in Turkey said that the ship had been heading from a port in Ukraine to Alexandria, Egypt. The presence of missile components had not been reported by the ship’s crew to Turkish authorities. (AP, Xinhua, Itar-Tass, June 15)

In Moscow, meanwhile, representatives of both the state arms trading company Rosvooruzhenie and the Defense Ministry denied that the missile components were connected to the S-300 deal. The Defense Ministry official said that Cyprus would receive the missile complexes no earlier than August of this year. He also said that Russia had yet to decide whether to deliver the missiles to Cyprus by air or by water. (Itar-Tass, June 15)

Ankara has warned that it will take military action to stop deployment of the missiles in Cyprus. The missile sale, meanwhile, has become a point of friction between Russia and Turkey, between Turkey and Greece, and between the United States and Russia. Washington has charged that the missile deal will exacerbate tensions in the region. For Moscow, the deal is attractive for several reasons. It is a lucrative contract for Russia’s cash-starved defense sector and is seen as a promotional tool that could increase sales of the S-300 systems worldwide. The deal also strengthens Moscow’s ties to Greece while increasing tensions between NATO members Greece and Turkey. Last week, a Russian daily reported that the S-300s had already been delivered to Cyprus. That report was also denied by Russian authorities. (See the Monitor, June 10)