Yilmaz Warns Cyprus Over Missiles

NICOSIA (Reuters)–The head of Turkey’s military arrived in the north of the divided island of Cyprus on Friday after a warning from Ankara that it might boost its forces there in a row over missile purchases.

"The Turkish Cypriot people should not be nervous about the recent increased arms buildup by the Greek Cypriots," chief of staff Ismail Hakki Karadayi told reporters on arrival.

"We are watching this provocation carefully and responses to this irresponsibility are being worked out," he said.

Tension on Cyprus has risen since the Greek Cypriot-led government in the south announced 18 months ago plans to install Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles.

Earlier–Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said Turkey would match Greek Cypriot armament on the island step by step. "If they install battle missiles on the south–we will increase our (military) strength," Anatolian new agency quoted Yilmaz as saying in a television interview. "If the Greeks deploy missiles–we will do the same," he said.

Yilmaz did not repeat previous Turkish threats to strike the weapons systems if they were deployed. Greece has said that any attack on Cyprus would be a cause for war with old foe Turkey.

Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Russian President Boris Yeltsin might discuss the missile purchase at a meeting in Moscow set for Monday–Cypriot officials said.

Russia has just completed the training of Greek Cypriot troops in the use of the S-300s and has carried out successful test firings against several flying targets.

Cypriot Defense Minister Yiannakis Omirou–in Russia as a guest of the state arms export agency–attended the test.

The tension worries Washington–which fears a conflict between NATO allies Turkey and Greece could rip the Western defense alliance apart.

A Greek proposal of a no-fly-zone over Cyprus as an alternative to the missile deployment was welcomed by the United States and the Cyprus government this week but Turkey said it would not bargain over the missiles.

Greek and Turkish planes landed in the rival sectors of Cyprus last month in the latest round of brinkmanship. Yilmaz said Turkey–which has the second-largest military in NATO–would be the winner in any fight with Greece.

"I think it (war) would be insanity for Greece. They tried a similar thing in 1974. If they have forgotten–we can do it again," Yilmaz said.

Turkish troops invaded the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by Athens.

Turkey maintains some 30,000 troops in support of a self-proclaimed Turkish Cypriot state in the north of Cyprus which Ankara alone recognizes.

Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash met army chief Karadayi on Friday. The general was also to review Turkish forces on the island as part of a two-day visit.

The anti-aircraft missiles–due for delivery in November–have a range of 90 miles (145 km). Turkey says the weapons are a threat to its own airspace as well that of the Turkish Cypriots.

Turkish troops invaded the northern third of Cyprus in 1974 in response to a Greek Cypriot coup backed by Athens.


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