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25 June, 2024
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Cyprus seen as ‘special window’ to arming Ukraine

The New York Times spell out urgency in arming Ukraine with Cyprus being a potential supplier


Rumors continue to grow regarding Cyprus potentially supplying Russian-made weapons to Ukraine, with The New York Times this week suggesting Nicosia has been actively discussing better replacements from Washington in recent meetings where Kiev also came up as a topic of discussion.

(Click here for an update to the story)

Last week Washington proceeded with a conditional lift of an arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus, a move that has been criticized by Turkey that warned of an arms race on the divided island.

But media speculation was quick to point out that the arms embargo lift, which was previously only partial, was potentially linked to Cypriot demands to replace Soviet-made weapons with modern systems from America before Nicosia could heed Washington’s call to consider transferring old Russian systems to Ukraine.

According to a NYT piece authored by Lara Jakes, Cyprus was among candidate countries that have demonstrated support for Ukraine but were still reluctant to supply lethal aid, such as Tor-M1 and Buk-M1 missile systems that can down Russian aircraft.

'Even though there had been discussions, we could never seriously contemplate replacing these Russian-origin weapons with American systems... but now we can'

“And then there is Cyprus. It has presented a special window on the difficulties of keeping up with the urgent demand for arms that Ukraine’s troops are burning through faster than can be supplied as they claw back large swaths of territory and push the Russians to retreat,” Jakes wrote.

On the Cypriot side, the defense ministry never ruled out shipments to Ukraine but said it would only exchange parts with a third country before allowing for the transfer.

Nicosia further stated recently that there were no immediate replacements in the works, suggesting any potential transfer of Russian systems would take time, something Kiev does not have especially now as Moscow this week ordered new attacks after Ukraine escalated counterattacks.

Cypriot government spokesman Marios Pelekanos, who was quoted in the NYT, also played down any urgency by pointing to the Cyprus problem as Nicosia’s priority and viewing the embargo lift as a response to Turkey maintaining an army on the divided island.

“Given the serious security threats posed on a daily basis by the Turkish occupation forces, the current security architecture of Cyprus ought to remain intact,” Pelekanos said.

But the arms embargo lift appeared to be more urgent and timely than diplomats might like to admit.

In a first, Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides in early summer traveled to the US where he met with high-ranking officials at the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council, with bilateral defence and military cooperation being on the agenda among other issues.  

Two months later the Cypriot government’s aspirations to obtain Iron Dome, a joint US-Israeli field-tested defense system, made headlines in August when Kathimerini Cyprus’ Apostolos Tomaras broke the news that Nicosia had moved forward with an earlier decision to purchase parts of the rocket defense apparatus.

On another front, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed over the summer that Greek S-300 surface-to-air missiles, bought by Cyprus and stored on the island of Crete, had locked on Turkish aircraft and further accused Greece of a “hostile act.”

Kiev has been seeking out S-300 systems after Russia back in April destroyed the same units on Ukrainian soil as soon as they were supplied from Slovakia, before the apparatus could even become operational.

Senior military expert Bradley Bowman, a former US Army officer, suggested that discussions about replacing systems in Cyprus had not been serious in the past but he told NYT this was no longer the case.

“Even though there had been discussions, we could never seriously contemplate replacing these Russian-origin weapons -that Cyprus could transfer to Ukraine- with American systems,” said Bowman, adding that after the embargo lift “but now we can.”

Cyprus  |  United States  |  Ukraine  |  Russia  |  arms embargo  |  weapons  |  war  |  conflict

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