Turkish glee at ‘comical’ climbdown

By Andrew Adamides

CYPRUS’ decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles is a victory for Turkey, the country’s Foreign Minister Ismail Cem said yesterday, warning that attention would now be turned to preventing their deployment in Crete.

President Glafcos Clerides announced yesterday that Cyprus would now negotiate with Moscow for a compromise deployment of the missiles on the Greek island of Crete.

“Theoretically, in Crete or elsewhere, if there is a threat directed toward Turkey, we will analyse the threat and react with appropriate means, according to the scope of the threat,” Cem said, adding Turkey would “take all appropriate political and military means if the missiles were to be deployed in Crete.”

Turkey had threatened to use military force to block the missiles’ deployment in Cyprus ever since the announcement of the S-300 deal two years ago.

“All we said was this: ‘If these missiles are deployed, we will do all that is necessary militarily and politically,’ and this determined policy ended with the Greeks and Greek Cypriots getting themselves into a comical situation,” Cem told Turkish television.

He also said the missiles had been ordered in an attempt to force concessions from Turkey, which was “a wrong calculation”.

The Turkish Foreign Minister described the Crete decision as unacceptable because it would increase tension between Nato-members Greece and Turkey, and mean that Russian technicians would have to be present on Nato soil. He also claimed that the missiles’ radar system would allow Russia to observe Nato flights in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey would “continue to take every kind of measure possible,” Cem said. “They should not think that Turkey will sit around with its arms crossed.”

Turkey rejected a Greek Cypriot proposal to cancel the missile deal if Ankara accepted the demilitarisation of the island.

Greece had urged Cyprus to shift the missiles to Crete in order to avoid a military showdown with Turkey. Athens, committed to defend Cyprus from Turkish attack by the 1993 Joint Defence pact, was also fearful that any military showdown would prove costly to Greece and smash its austerity measures, put in place in order to get Greece into the EU’s single currency club.

Athens also feared that the S-300 situation could scupper Cyprus’ EU accession bid. Cyprus is economically top of the list of applicant countries and has been lauded for its compliance with the acquis communautaire. Turkey also aspires to joining the European Union, but has failed to meet even the criteria for negotiations to begin.

On the Turkish side of the island, a spokesman for Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash told journalists that it was “unlikely” Denktash would comment before the end of the day.