Cyprus Shrugs off Turkey’s Distress over Defense Agreement with France

(Combined Sources)–Cypriot Foreign Minister George Lillikas dismissed on Friday Turkey’s objection to a Cyprus-France defense agreement, which Ankara claimed would lead to instability in the region. "The only source of worry and instability in the area is Turkey itself, with its unacceptable political behavior and mentality," government spokesman Christodoulos Pashiardis said. "The Cyprus government, as an independent and sovereign state has every legal right to enter (into) agreemen’s with foreign countries, without requiring prior approval from Turkey." France and Cyprus signed the agreement in Paris on Wednesday, after six months of negotiations The would allow for Cypriot army officers to train in France and conduct joint military exercises and cooperate to halt the flow of illegal aliens from the Middle East to the shores of Europe. French Minister of Defense Michele Alliot-Marie said after the agreement "provides for greater exchange in training issues," but the agreement does not cover issues tied to "common use of military bases. It does grant France the use of Andreas Papandreou air base near Paphos, southern Cyprus. The base was used by the French to evacuate French citizens from Lebanon last summer. A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the Greek-Cypriot government had no right to "sign such agreemen’s, which would contribute to the instability of the region." In a statement released on Thursday, the Ministry asserted that France’s signing such an agreement with Cyprus was a worrisome development, which might jeopardize stability in the eastern Mediterranean and would make a negative impact on efforts for a comprehensive solution to Cyprus problem. But Lillikas asserted that Turkey itself has turned into a factor of instability as its recent threats are "not only against the Republic of Cyprus but also against Lebanon and Egypt". Turkey’s anger with Cyprus follows last month’s move by Cyprus to open a bidding process to license offshore oil and gas exploration, despite strong objections from Ankara which issued warnings to Egypt and Lebanon not to mark out sea boundaries with the Mediterranean island. Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded in response to an abortive coup by supporters of union with Greece. Ankara doesn’t recognize the island’s government in the Greek Cypriot south, and backs a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state in the north, where it maintains 40, 000 troops.

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