Cyprus Says Turkey Building Up Weaponry in North

NICOSIA (Reuters)–Cyprus accused Turkey on Wednesday of building up its firepower in the north of the divided island–and lodged protests with representatives of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

The semi-official Cyprus News Agency said the foreign ministry had made verbal representations on Wednesday morning to the five permanent council members and to the United Nations chief of mission in Cyprus.

"This has been going on for some time and until last week they were bringing armamen’s," a Greek Cypriot defense source told Reuters.

The defense source said Turkish forces in northern Cyprus–which according to the United Nations number some 30,000–had been boosted by an unspecified number of American-made M48 tanks and extra artillery.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the Greek Cypriots’ protest was a way of distracting attention from their own plans to deploy Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles on the island.

"They have come under such pressure as a result of the S-300 problem–they have started such a mistaken business–that they are looking for a way to remove this pressure and are saying such things–to cover up the guilt of the S-300s," a Turkish spokesman’said.

He said he had no information about any extra Turkish troops on the island–but there were regular rotations of Turkish forces.

Turkey has threatened to use force to prevent the arrival of the S-300 missiles–which it says are a threat to itself and Turkish Cypriots in northern Cyprus.

The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since Turkey invaded the north in 1974 after a brief coup engineered by the military then ruling Greece.

A breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in northern Cyprus is recognized only by Ankara.

A spokesman for the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus–which guards a 112-mile buffer zone between the two sides–said the Greek Cypriot complaint would be passed on to New York.

"The chief of mission has passed this demarche on to Secretary General Kofi Annan with our own independent assessment," said spokesman Waldemar Rokoszewski. He did not elaborate.

United States envoy Thomas Miller was in Ankara on Wednesday trying to convince Turkey–initially with little success–to accept a suspension of military flights over the divided island.

Washington and its allies are concerned that tension between the two sides could spill over later this year when the Greek Cypriot-led government takes delivery of the surface-to-air missiles from Russia.

The idea of creating a no-fly zone–which Athens says it would back with the right guarantees–would be part of a deal to stall the deployment.


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