The US and EU are looking to expand their military and intelligence infrastructure in Cyprus.
The US is proactively exploring a military build-up in Cyprus, according to the Director of the Information and Press Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Maria Zakharova.
Zakharova cited numerous sources who have reported that the US is looking to expand its military presence on Cyprus, not hiding the fact that the effort is aimed at countering Russia’s growing influence in the region in light of the progress in the Syrian operation by the Russian Aerospace Forces.
A delegation of US experts recently inspected military and strategic islands on the island with the aim of setting up a forward deployment base for the US Armed Forces. Reportedly, Washington is actively discussing with Nicosia ways to expand military-technical cooperation.
Zakharova said that Russia has repeatedly pointed out to the leadership of Cyprus that further efforts to militarize the island and draw it into US and NATO plans for the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East would lead to destabilization of Cyprus itself.
“Moscow cannot turn a blind eye to the anti-Russia nature of these plans and, should they materialize, will be forced to take retaliatory action.”
Zakharova’s comments could eb a response to an announcement by Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on December 4th. He said he was expecting the US to express interest in taking part in the trilateral energy cooperation between Cyprus, Greece and Israel. The US has expressed increased interest in the development of hydrocarbons exploration and exploitation in the region. In addition, it was recently announced that Cyprus would appoint a military attaché in Washington.
In a bid to defuse tensions Cyprus Foreign Minister Nicos Christodoulides contacted his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, while Cyprus government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said that “it was never was our aim, nor is it now, to militarize Cyprus.” They also discussed the latest developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as EU-Russia issues and agreed within this context to meet in the next few months.
On December 6th, the Russian Embassy in Israel repeated the remarks by Zakharova:
#Russia pointed out to #Cyprus that efforts to militarise the island and draw it into #US plans for #MiddleEast will lead to dangerous destabilisation. #Moscow cannot turn a blind eye to anti-Russia nature of these plans and, should they materialise, will be forced to take action pic.twitter.com/GSeAWyfmBL
— Russia🇷🇺 in Israel (@israel_mid_ru) December 6, 2018
Later on the same day, Government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said that the Cyprus government was not interested in any sort of military build-up, it was trying to solve the Cyprus problem and get rid of the occupying forces. He also reiterated that Cyprus had agreements with many countries and as part of them granted facilities for humanitarian reasons.
According to Prodromou, it had been reaffirmed that Cyprus has close, friendly relations with Russia. He also added that Cyprus was a member of the EU and no one could dispute this position and the orientation it involved.
Cyprus Mail reported that Russian ambassador to Cyprus Stanislav Osadchiy has openly revaled Moscow’s concerns, issuing warnings that bilateral relations will suffer following frequent meetings he has with Greek Cypriot politicians.
Earlier in December, Osadchiy said that EU sanctions against his country and a Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) crackdown on shell companies had led to the closure of thousands of bank accounts belonging to Russians and the departure of companies from the island.
In addition, Greece and Cyprus are to co-operate on a project to build a joint European Union intelligence school (JEUS). They are to be assisted by other NATO members, the National Herald reported.
The school will be based on Cyprus and led by Greece and is aimed at training agency staff from the EU, in cooperation with national security agencies and NATO. It will also develop new hardware such as drones and electronic warfare technology, the South EU Summit said.
Turkey has provided no response to the news of the project, however it is uncertain if the school would even take off. PESCO ‘launched’ many projects last year, but a number of these have yet to come to fruition.
This comes amid reported Turkish provocations being stepped up in the Aegean and East Mediterranean. Turkey disputes ownership of sovereign waters also claimed by Greece and Turkey and with Turkish warships having tried to stop foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas off Cyprus.
These developments are happening during on-going tensions between the US and Turkey, as well as Turkey and the EU over military cooperation. Turkey threatened to expel US and NATO forces from its airbases, amid a row over the purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems. The US threatened to remove Turkey from the F-35 project. Most recently, on December 5th, Defense News cited Heidi Grant, the Air Force’s deputy undersecretary for international affairs who claimed that Pentagon analysis shows that there won’t be a catastrophe if Turkey is forced off the program. However, Turkey may possibly and very likely have a diversification strategy in store for contingency measures.