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Thursday, June 18, 1998 Published at 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK

World: Europe

Tension rises in Cyprus

Greek and Turkish F-16s have been sent to Cyprus

Turkey has sent six F-16 fighter-bomber aircraft to the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus - one day after four Greek F-16s landed in a recently inaugurated military airbase at Paphos, in the Greek part of the island.

The Turkish Prime Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, said Turkey did not want a war with Greece over Cyprus, and he added that the possibility of one breaking out "largely depends on the Greek-Cypriot attitude."

BBC's Chris Drake reports from Nicosia (1'07")
In Ankara, Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem accused Athens of having a long-term strategy to use Cyprus as a military foothold to attack Turkey and warned Athens that Turkey would take "all necessary measures against aggression plans and preparations" by Greece.

Shortly after the Turkish warplanes landed, the US ambassador in Nicosia, Kenneth Brill, met the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, apparently to discuss the Turkish move.

Mr Denktash said the landing of the Turkish F-16s at the base at Gecitkale (Lefkoniko) on Thursday was "a message, a step to re-establish a balance in the situation on the island created by the arrival of the Greek warplanes."

The Greek foreign minister described the dispatch of Turkish warplanes as "completely illegal", while the Cypriot government spokesman said a protest would be filed with the appropriate international bodies.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan in a report on Cyprus had called on Greece and Turkey to " abstain from any action which could further exacerbate tension."

In the past months tension has risen over the Russian S-300 ground-to-air missiles bought by the Cypriot authorities and expected to be deployed later this year.

Turkey considers the missiles a threat to its security and has threatened military action.

The BBC correspondent in Nicosia, Chris Drake, says that diplomats see the latest escalation as a way of increasing pressure on the international powers to intervene.

But he, says, the tit-for-tat show of force is seen as unlikely to produce such results.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded the northern part of the island in response to a Greek-inspired coup attempt.

The Turkish-Cypriots declared their independence in 1983, but their state is recognised only by Ankara.

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