AT his meeting with the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European and Nato policy, Thomas Goffus, Defence Minister Savvas Angelides brought up the US arms embargo imposed on Cyprus since before the Turkish invasion. In announcement issued by the defence ministry after the meeting it was reported that Angelides raised the “issue of lifting of the embargo on the sale of American military equipment to Cyprus, mentioning the substantial importance this had for the special matter of developing bilateral relations”.
Angelides is a young, new minister and could have not yet realised the importance of showing restraint in his dealings with foreign officials, but his phrase came across as a bit blunt. His comment, if correctly conveyed by the ministry’s publicity officer, may have been construed as a veiled threat, which could not have been his intention. Had he set the lifting of the embargo on arms sales as a condition for developing bilateral relations? Did he have orders from the president to set this condition, or had he taken it upon himself to bring up the arms embargo?
What military equipment, if any, does the Anastasiades government want to purchase from the US, F16 fighters or ballistic missiles? Perhaps the government has decided to give in to pressure to start buying arms for the National Guard. Arms spending was cut during the recession, but after Turkey’s most recent violations of Cyprus exclusive economic zone (EEZ), there have been calls to strengthen our defence capabilities.
Several newspaper columnists have been stressing the need for greater defence spending in view of Turkey’s provocations, while Archbishop Chrysostomos took up the theme in last week’s Easter message. Turkey’s aggressive attitude in Cyprus’ EEZ “should by now have convinced us that we ought to possess even a minimal deterrent force,” he said, before reprimanding the government for neglecting defence.
“A state that neglected for years its defence, which does not renew and bolster its weapons systems and which has reduced to the minimum compulsory military service of its citizens, will find it impossible to force and convince an aggressive opponent to resign from its goals,” he declared in his not-so-religious Easter message. Was he trying to impose a new defence policy?
Perhaps the defence minister took the archbishop’s Easter message seriously and decided to request lifting of the US embargo at his meeting with Goffus. Whatever his motives, this defence rhetoric serves no useful purpose and the sooner it stops the better. Unless, of course, the archbishop really believes that Turkey’s aggressive attitude in Cyprus’ EEZ will stop if we buy a few new weapon systems.