MOSCOW (Reuters)–Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides confirmed on Monday that a controversial deal to supply the divided island with Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missiles would go ahead as planned.
"The issue that has been discussed more than once here–the readiness by both sides to meet obligations undertaken earlier under this contract–has been confirmed," Kremlin aide Sergei Prikhodko said in televised remarks.
Turkey has warned it might use force to block deployment of the missiles–saying they represent a threat to its own security and to that of Turkish Cypriots.
Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said last week Turkey could boost its military presence on the north of the island in response to the missile deployment–set to take place by the end of November. Military experts have said Ankara is afraid the system will make it impossible to air-lift troops to the island and to support them from the air in case of a conflict.
On Monday–Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash repeated warnings that Turkey would retaliate if Greek Cypriots deployed the missiles. "Our position today stands at a point that you will get a response to whatever you do," the Turkish Cypriot TAK news agency quoted Denktash as saying.
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov–speaking to reporters before meeting Clerides on Monday–did not comment on the arms deal but said he and the Cypriot president had "thoroughly discussed ways of solving the Cyprus problem."There is a vast field where our views and interests coincide," he said.
Clerides praised his talks with Yeltsin as very positive–saying the S-300s contract had been discussed in detail. "The talks went so well that I do not think there will be any questions in our negotiations with minister Primakov," he said.
"I can promise you that," said Primakov–inviting Clerides to a room used by his ministry for diplomatic ceremonies. Prikhodko said Russia’s military-technical cooperation with Cyprus was an integral part of Russia’s foreign policy.
Russia last week completed training of Cypriot troops in the use of the system. Clerides–head of the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot-led government–has said he would consider delaying the arrival of the missiles if reunification talks with the Turkish Cypriots resume and progress is made.
But talks between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities have been logjammed for almost a year with no sign of an early return to the negotiating table.
The eastern Mediterranean island has been partitioned since 1974–when Turkish forces invaded the northern third after a Greek Cypriot coup in Nicosia instigated by Greece’s military rulers. Monday Interfax quoted Prikhodko as saying the presidents did not discuss any delays in implementing the deal. RIA news agency said Yeltsin also met Yevgeny Ananyev–the head of Rosvooruzheniye state arms exports agency–and discussed prospects for increasing arms exports.
Russia is a major arms exporter and any contract it wins in Europe is of prime imprtance in its fight with European and US arms producers for a larger share of the market.
Prikhodko said Yeltsin and Clerides had also "discussed the prospects for developing Russia-Cyprus relations–both economic and political."
Clerides is in Moscow to attend the World Youth Games–a sporting competition that officially begins on Monday evening.