Foreign media are tracking a story on the Cypriot government’s aspirations to obtain Iron Dome, Israel’s field-tested defense system, but news and sources piling up over the weekend suggest the island’s neighbor warming up to Turkey and the war in Ukraine could tell a more complicated story.
A political piece penned by Kathimerini Cyprus’ Apostolos Tomaras last week broke the news that the Republic of Cyprus had moved forward with an earlier decision to purchase Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defense system.
“Kathimerini is in a position to know that the decision has already been implemented and the Israeli side has already dotted the signatures,” Tomaras wrote on Friday.
Iron Dome's anti-drone apparatus anathema to Turkey
Greek Cypriot military experts say a system that could strike Turkish drones with precision would be anathema to Ankara, which announced last week it had fully restored its diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.
But there was no immediate objection from Ankara regarding the Iron Dome deal for Nicosia.
Cyprus never ruled out shipments to Ukraine but said it would only exchange parts with a third country before allowing for the transfer of Russian-made equipment to Kiev
Israel says improving relations with Turkey would not come at the expense of its alliances in the region including with Cyprus and Greece, but also not excluding Turkey.
Last week the Cypriot foreign ministry said it was monitoring the developments between Ankara and Tel Aviv, with foreign ministry director Kornelios Korneliou telling the Cyprus News Agency that Israel stood to benefit from good relations with the island.
Korneliou said the Republic of Cyprus was a member state of the EU and reliable partner to Israel, adding that Tel Aviv could depend on Nicosia.
“We are reliable in this relationship and I believe they have every interest to keep it that way,” the Cypriot official said.
Israeli media that picked up the Iron Dome story reported that the country’s defense ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the matter.
Dome of silence and Ukraine speculation
Media speculation from military and defense media outlets over the weekend suggested an “Iron Dome light” delivery to Cyprus could be part of a controversial transfer of Cypriot air defense systems to Ukraine.
Sources within Kathimerini Cyprus, which is owned by the network that also owns Knews, have confirmed that the equipment signed last week to be bought from Israel would not be the full Iron Dome package.
The purchase signed last week would include an anti-drone defense apparatus that could also work within Cyprus’ Russian-made Tor-M1 and Buk-M1 air defense systems, according to the source.
Pentagon okay required for deal with Cyprus
Prior to a recent visit to Israel, Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides visited the Pentagon back in May when a discussion included cooperation on matters of defence and security. As a joint Israeli-American project, any Iron Dome sales to a third country must be approved by both developer countries.
Washington has been calling on Cyprus and other allies to transfer Russian-made military systems to Ukraine, in an effort to boost Kiev’s resistance to Russian attacks.
The Cypriot Defense Ministry never ruled out shipments to Ukraine but said it would only exchange parts with a third country before allowing for the transfer.