Ankara says it will “never allow any harm to come to the Turkish Cypriots” while condemning US policy towards Cyprus, including an agreement last week between Greek Cypriot and New Jerseyan armies on a program viewed as a potential precursor to NATO.
Last week the Republic of Cyprus and the New Jersey National Guard formalized an October agreement for the Greek Cypriot army to enter a US State Partnership Program with the Garden State, the home base of Senator Bob Menendez who supported the deal.
But the Turkish foreign ministry in a press release over the weekend condemned the project, doubling down on criticism by Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar who has described the agreement as “unlawful” that could “serve to escalate tensions” on the divided island.
'We hope the Greek Cypriot side will comprehend the fact that Türkiye, as a motherland and guarantor, will never allow any harm to come to the Turkish Cypriots'
Ankara called on Washington to reverse its policy towards Nicosia, accusing the Americans of threatening stability in the region and condemning a US decision to lift a full arms embargo on Greek Cypriots for up to a year.
“These last steps are also encouraging the Greek Cypriot side’s armament,” the statement said.
The SPP, which began in 1993 with just over a dozen partners, has grown to 95 partner-nations that maintain collaboration on US defense and military affairs.
Albania, which is the other partner in the New Jersey program after Tirana joined two decades ago, went on to become a NATO member years later.
A letter to US military officials signed last year by politicians including Menendez supported Nicosia's SPP aplication and pointed out that the state’s partnership with Tirana had been “credited as a key contributor to Albania’s 2009 accession into NATO.”
Menendez, a friend of Cyprus, also told military officials that Larnaca was a short flight from Tirana for KC-135 and C-32 aircraft flying routinely out of New Jersey.
Cypriot newly-appointed Defense Minister Michalis Giorgallas praised the agreement, saying Cyprus and US relations never had been stronger.
“We are always seeking new avenues for cooperation in order to further strengthen this strategic partnership,” Giorgallas said.
But Tatar begs to differ.
The Turkish Cypriot leader gave an interview to Hurriyet in October when he condemned the Republic of Cyprus for partnering up with New Jersey, saying this would allow Greek Cypriots to receive US military training.
Tatar went on to point to the divided island’s three guarantor powers -Greece, Turkey, and Britain- based on an international treaty technically still in effect today.
“Despite the existence of these treaties, how is it possible for the Greek Cypriots to enter into different agreements? Not only is this unlawful, it is a situation that will serve to escalate tensions,” Tatar argued.
But Greek Cypriots want to abolish Turkish security guarantees, viewed as anathema in the south while Turkish Cypriots in the north view them as a necessary deterrent.
Speaking on EOKA Day on Saturday, marking Greek Cypriot revolt during British rule to unite the island with Greece, Giorgallas told an audience that Nicosia was seeking resumption of peace talks but also wanted to do away with Turkish guarantees.
"Everyone must understand that a solution to the Cyprus issue that ensures the withdrawal of the occupying troops, the implementation of the EU acquis and the liberation of Cyprus from the anachronistic system of guarantees and foreign interventions, will be to the benefit of all," the minister said.
Ankara wants security guarantees to remain on the island, with the foreign ministry saying over the weekend that Turkey “will continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the Turkish Cypriot people.”
“We hope the Greek Cypriot side will comprehend the fact that Türkiye, as a motherland and guarantor, will never allow any harm to come to the Turkish Cypriots,” the ministry said.