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Turkey, Akinci slam IMET programme, Nicosia welcomes it (Update 2)

File photo of national guardsmen during an exercise
Analyst says both sides inflating its importance

By Elias Hazou and George Psyllides

The Republic’s inclusion by the US in the International Military Education and Training programme (IMET) does not contribute to the island’s reunification, the Turkish foreign ministry has said.

Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci also criticised the decision at the same time as Nicosia welcomed the move on Wednesday, but at least one analyst, who preferred to remain unnamed said both sides were inflating the importance of the action.

The source said the programme will most likely involve visits here by US officers training Cypriot officers in on-the-ground military operational and strategic operational planning.

He said questions remain over whether the training offered will be compatible with the operational set-up of the National Guard.

The source suggested that IMET may well be a case of the Americans throwing the Cypriots a bone, as it were, in place of selling arms to the Republic, as provided by the East Med Act under certain conditions.

“On the geopolitical level, it’s mostly of symbolic importance.”

But the presumed political significance is being played up by all the parties, each for their own reasons.

For instance, regarding Turkey’s reaction to the announcement, the expert said Ankara is merely going through the motions.

“It’s highly doubtful Ankara worries about this US programme. But as usual they will try to make it all about them, to play the role of the victim and so forth,” said the source.

Earlier, the Turkish foreign ministry said: “As we have repeatedly stressed, these and other similar steps do not contribute in the efforts to find a solution of the Cyprus problem,” the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. “On the contrary, the Greek Cypriot side’s intransigent stance is strengthened.”

Ankara said any steps that ignore the balance between the two sides on the island do not contribute towards creating an atmosphere of trust, nor do they ensure peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.

“We would like to remind our allies, the US, that equal treatment of the two sides of the island is the UN’s principle.”

Akinci said on Wednesday it could not be understood how regional stability would benefit from military cooperation between the US and the RoC.

In a written statement, Akinci said he had been informed of the decision through the US ambassador who was told of the Turkish Cypriot leader’s displeasure.

Akinci said actions that disregarded the rights and interests of all sides, whether they concerned sharing natural resources or others that concerned the entire region, should be avoided.

Unilateral and bilateral initiatives “negatively affect the continuing efforts between the two sides on the island to achieve stability in the region.” he said.

Instead of military support and cooperation, the United States could contribute to peace and stability through constructive dialogue and cooperation between the sides in Cyprus and regional players, the statement said.

Chiming in, the north’s ‘prime minister’ Ersin Tatar likewise said this cooperation will serve to embolden the Greek Cypriots.

He said that efforts by Turkey and the north to “safeguard” their hydrocarbons rights in the eastern Mediterranean has “vexed” certain countries who have resorted to “playing various games.”

For its part, Nicosia welcomed Cyprus’ inclusion in the US programme.

“It is yet another action that contributes to the upgrading of Cyprus-US relations, and moreover highlights the enhanced role of our country as a pillar for stability, security and cooperation,” read a written statement by government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios.

Cyprus’ inclusion in the programme was announced by the US embassy on Wednesday.

It said IMET provides students from allied and friendly nations valuable training and education on US military practices and standards through professional and technical courses.

The programme was a key component of US security assistance, promoting regional stability and defence capabilities through professional military education and training and that the training can start in 2021 “subject to Congressional appropriations and notification”.

Offering IMET to Cyprus is consistent with the State Department’s Eastern Mediterranean strategy and the policy intent of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019, both of which aim to strengthen our security partnership with the Republic, the embassy added.



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