Clerides Reaffirms Plans to Deploy Missiles

UNITED NATIONS (Reuter)–Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides reaffirmed plans Monday to deploy Russian-made S-300 ground-to-air missiles and said the Turkish air force would not again be allowed to "bomb our towns and villages at will."

In a speech to the General Assembly–he reiterated his commitment to finding a solution to the question of Cyprus–despite the failure of two rounds of UN-sponsored talks during the summer with Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash–which he blamed on the "inflexibility of the Turkish side."

"However–I wish to make it abundantly clear that we cannot and that we will not relinquish our inalienable right to defend our country–and to decide about our armamen’s," Clerides said.

"As long as the Turkish threat emanating from the continued aggression and occupation of 37 percent of the territory of the republic exists–we have not only the right but also the duty to provide for the security of the people of Cyprus," he continued.

He was referring to the 1974 invasion of the northern part of the island by the Turkish army. The United Nations has since been trying in vain to reunite the divided island as a bi-zonal–bi-communal federation.

"We will not tie our hands behind our backs and allow the Turkish air force to bomb our towns and villages at will–as it has done in the past–without the ability to defend ourselves," Clerides said.

"Our forces never again–if need be–will take the battle field without adequate protection from air attacks by the Turkish air force."

Turkey says the S-300 missiles–due to be deployed in 1998–would threaten its own airspace and territory–and has vowed to take whatever action might be needed to prevent their installation.

Clerides said that during his talks with Denktash at Glion–Switzerland–in August–he proposed they both make a statement renouncing the use of force as a means of solving the Cyprus problem and agree to work for a specific program of reducing military forces and demilitarizing the island.

If this were accepted by the other side–it "may open the way for substantive progress towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question and the restoration of the respect of the human rights of the people of Cyprus which have been grossly violated for the last 23 years," he said.

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