Cyprus has sought support from France to upgrade naval facilities, turning away from Britain which according to government officials is in talks with Turkey for post-Brexit deals.
Defence Minister Savvas Angelides signed in Paris this week a letter of intent with his counterpart Florence Parly.
The document provides for the use of the infrastructure of the Evangelos Florakis naval military base by the French Navy. The official statement says that the purpose of the agreement is “to strengthen the naval capabilities of the Republic of Cyprus and broad strategic cooperation for the benefit of the maritime forces of the two states.”
According to Angelides, the deal brings “wider strategic co-operation” between Cyprus and France. This is seen as a positive development for the island nation amidst rising tensions with Turkey.
Britain exercises sovereign control on two military bases, Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which now provide staging posts for the British military close to the Middle East.
British daily The Times quoted a Cypriot government official, who said Cyprus no longer feels it can count on Britain in case of Turkish aggression. He added that the UK is talking to Turkey to prepare post-Brexit deals, while the former is currently violating the Republic of Cyprus’ sovereignty in the EEZ.
It also quoted Angelos Chryssogelos, an associate fellow at Chatham House think tank in London who said: “France is stepping into an area of traditional UK influence which tells us a lot about Britain’s distraction over Brexit — the UK was once a leading voice in European energy security, but no longer.”
This week, the Cyprus government strongly reacted to the comments made by Britain’s minister for Europe Sir Alan Duncan, about planned Turkish drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ, which he described as being in a “disputed” area.
President Nicos Anastasiades called Sir Alan’s statement “unacceptable, particularly in light of the strong support Cyprus gave Britain during Brexit talks”.
For several months now, work has been under way to expand the port at the Evangelos Florakis military base in Mari, which is expected to host French warships and submarines. According to both parties, the agreement is in line with a general effort to upgrade EU military capacity.
The deal has raised concern on the British side. According to the Times, former British military chiefs and politicians expressed concern, stating that the “good relationship between the UK and Cyprus is to be valued and not cast aside lightly”