East Med Tensions: Turkey Slams US Plan to Conduct Military Training with Cyprus

Written by | Friday, July 10th, 2020

Ankara has criticized the US State Department’s announcement that Washington will fund military training for the Republic of Cyprus and that the US troops will conduct military training with the country for the first time. The announcement came months after the US Congress late last year ended an arms embargo on the entire island, imposed in 1987 to prevent an arms race and encourage a peaceful settlement in one of the world’s most enduring frozen conflicts. This comes against the backdrop of hightening tensions in the region over Turkey’s drilling for gas off the island, with the EU calling the move illegal.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops seized the northern third of the island in response to an Athens-inspired Greek Cypriot coup aimed at uniting the eastern Mediterranean island with Greece. Seeds of conflict were sown earlier, prompting the dispatch of a United Nations peacekeeping mission in 1964. Turkey still maintains tens of thousands of soldiers on the island’s north, which in 1983 declared itself to be a republic and is recognised only by Ankara. Greek Cypriots are running the internationally recognised Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member, while UN peacekeeping forces still patrol the so-called “Green Line” – a 180km buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north.
The State Department had for the first time included Cyprus in its International Military Education and Training funding programme for 2020 as part of “our expanding security relationship,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday (8 July), adding that this is part of our efforts to enhance relationships with key regional partners to promote stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.” This drew criticism by Ankara and the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) who slammed the US move because “initiatives that do not observe balance between parties will not contribute to establishing a secure environment on the Island, nor will they help keep peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

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