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Friday, July 10, 1998 Published at 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK

World: Europe

Cyprus arms race hots up

The Russian-built S300 anti-aircraft missiles Cyprus plans to deploy

Turkey will deploy missiles of its own in northern Cyprus if the Greek-Cypriot government goes ahead with its plans to deploy advanced ground-to-air missiles on the island, Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz said in an interview with Turkish television late Thursday.

[ image: Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz]
Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz
"If they bring missiles to Cyprus, we will install some too," Yilmaz said.

"Our position is clear. If the Greek Cypriots want to deploy these missiles, let them go ahead.

"We will have to take counter-measures for the protection of the Turkish Cypriots. If the Greek Cypriots deploy them in the south, we will reinforce our capabilities," he said.

It is the first time Ankara has threatened a missile deployment of its own on the divided island.

The BBC Ankara correspondent Chris Morris reports on a possible arms race between Turkey and Greece.
Turkey says the Greek-Cypriot missiles, which are due to be delivered later this year, pose an unacceptable threat. They have a range of 90 miles (145 km), which, Turkey says, would threaten its own airspace as well as northern Cyprus's.

Mr Yilmaz, however, did not repeat previous Turkish threats of a military strike to prevent their deployment.

His remarks came as the top commander of the Turkish armed forces, General Ismail Hakki Karadayi visited Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus to discuss the security situation on the island, which was divided after Turkey invaded the north in July 1974.

The planned deployment of the missiles, combined with the European Union's invitation for Cyprus to become a member, have greatly increased tension between the Greek and the Turkish communities. The Turkish Cypriots have broken off all negotiations.

Meanwhile, the president of Cyprus, Glafcos Clerides, is due to meet the Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, in Moscow on Monday.

Compromise solution rejected

Earlier this week the United States offered to consider establishing a "no-fly" zone over Cyprus, which could reduce the tension between the Greek and Turkish sides. Athens and the Cyprus Government welcomed the proposal, but Turkey said it would not bargain over the missiles.

Turkey maintains some 30,000 troops in support of the Turkish controlled area in the north of the island, and Turkish Cypriots look to Turkey to guarantee their security. The BBC correspondent in Ankara says General Karadayi's visit seems designed to reinforce the message that Turkey is determined to continue that support.

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