Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides declined to say whether any of the island’s Soviet-made defense systems could end up in Ukraine, pointing to Turkey and budget concerns but also echoing a broader ambiguity as EU allies argue over the best defense strategy.
Christodoulides, who was responding on Tuesday to questions after a press conference on his first 100 Days in office, was asked about the possibility of the Greek Cypriot National Guard purchasing or exchanging new military defense systems with other countries in order for Soviet-made systems on the island to be transferred to Ukraine.
“The Republic of Cyprus is under occupation, the military budget is very precise, and so you can understand that we cannot take any action that would leave the Cyprus Republic unprotected,” Christodoulides said.
But there is a goal to increase the defense budget for military deterrence to 2% over the next five years, the president added.
'The Republic of Cyprus is under occupation, the military budget is very precise, and so you can understand that we cannot take any action that would leave the Cyprus Republic unprotected'
The question came up one day after Paris announced a joint €500 million purchase of 1000 Mistral air defence missiles with four other European states, including Cyprus.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday said his country along with Cyprus, Belgium, Estonia, and Hungary, had agreed to make the purchases.
Last year Nicosia hinted at being open to the possibility of indirectly transferring military equipment to Ukraine but only through third countries and on the condition it would receive modern replacements.
But EU plans to supply Kiev with ammunition and equipment have been help up in some European capitals including Athens and Nicosia.
Last month a Reuters report cited diplomats in Brussels saying Nicosia and Athens had sought a strict definition of the term “European industry” that was included in a package, “expressing concern that some of the cash to buy 155-millimeter artillery shells and missiles may end up with sub-contractors or suppliers in Turkey.”
Other countries including Germany argued against too many restrictions on supply chains, with a huge debate dominating industry news this week between Paris and Berlin.
French officials said the discussion needed to go beyond air defence while a spokesperson for the German defence ministry denied there was any competition between plans from the two countries.
Last month during a visit to Paris, Christodoulides sought Macron’s support in Nicosia’s new initiative to push for a more active EU role in Cyprus peace talks, suggesting a European personality could put pressure on Turkey.
“The EU possesses those specific incentives and tools that can lead to a mutually beneficial state of affairs for all parties involved,” Christodoulides said, adding that France’s role as a strong supporter of Cyprus “gains more significant.”
But Germany has also made supportive defense moves in Cyprus, with hald a dozen of Eurocopter attack helicopters expected on the island by early summer and more on the way later this year.