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Media Watch 2005

02 June 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Charlie Charalambous
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 2 June 2005.
Turkey beefs up US weaponry in Cyprus
"CYPRUS yesterday denounced Ankara for bolstering its occupation forces with upgraded US-made weaponry... Nicosia will also protest against the "provocative" presence of Turkish war ships off the Famagusta coast... 16 US M-48 tanks, six armoured vehicles (MII3) and 18 M115 artillery pieces were off loaded in the north between May 16-31... Nicosia has previously protested to the EU against the Turkish army’s "transfer to the occupied north fully-equipped and modernised US-made tanks and a significantly large number of armoured personnel carriers."... Turkish occupation forces have three times the number of tanks than the National Guard... Turkey maintains more arms and troops on the island in 2004, than it did in 2000... In the past, Washington has pressured the government to remove a meagre stockpile of US-made weapons given to it by Greece... Turkey has a huge arsenal of American hardware on Cyprus but escapes censure... The number of tanks stationed in the north has risen by 67% since 2000 and APCs are up by 74%.""

CYPRUS yesterday denounced Ankara for bolstering its occupation forces with upgraded US-made weaponry and the presence of warships off Paralimni at a time when efforts were underway to kick start a fresh UN peace initiative.

The arrival of more US military hardware was published in yesterday’s Phileleftheros newspaper while UN special envoy Kieran Prendergast was in separate talks with President Papadopoulos and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat.

"The authorities of Cyprus Republic can confirm that there is activity at Famagusta port these past days and weapons are being unloaded there," said government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides.

"I do not consider this continual upgrading (of Turkish forces) a natural development, in view of the efforts undertaken for a resumption of negotiations for a final settlement of the Cyprus problem," he added.

The spokesman said a protest would be lodged with the UN through "normal diplomatic channels".

Nicosia will also protest against the "provocative" presence of Turkish war ships off the Famagusta coast in the Kapparis sea area. They were replacing red markers for black buoys to signify the maritime demarcation line. Movements of the Turkish vessels were being monitored by marine police yesterday. It was the first time that Turkish navy vessels had ventured into sea area off Paralimni since 1999, said the Defence Ministry.

According to the Phileleftheros report, 16 US M-48 tanks, six armoured vehicles (MII3) and 18 M115 artillery pieces were off loaded in the north between May 16-31 during several visits by the Turkish vessel Karamurselbey.

Uproar
There was a similar uproar in February when Nicosia protested against the arrival of more US-made tanks on the island.

But Washington’s stock reply is that Turkey is not breaking the law by strengthening its military capability with additional US weaponry in the occupied areas.

Nicosia has previously protested to the EU against the Turkish army’s "transfer to the occupied north fully-equipped and modernised US-made tanks and a significantly large number of armoured personnel carriers."

The argument also argues that the armaments are not simply "replacements" but "additional weaponry" in moves to upgrade the capabilities of Turkish forces whose guns are trained on a weaker National Guard.

Washington argues US law has not been breached because such shipments are not considered a "transfer" of US arms from one state to another.

In the past, Turkey has denied bolstering Turkish forces in the north, although it maintains a military capability there way beyond its needs.

Turkish occupation forces have three times the number of tanks than the National Guard.

Recent figures published show that Turkey maintains more arms and troops on the island in 2004, than it did in 2000, despite the fact there hasn’t been any serious violence since the Green Line killings of 1996.

In the past, Washington has pressured the government to remove a meagre stockpile of US-made weapons given to it by Greece.

Nicosia counters that Turkey has a huge arsenal of American hardware on Cyprus but escapes censure.

The "legal problem" over the National Guard’s procurement of US-made self-propelled howitzers and M48-A5 battle tanks rests on US Congress law which prohibits "any country" transferring American-made arms to Cyprus after 1988.

Turkey has hundreds of US-made tanks, artillery pieces and armoured personnel carriers deployed in the north. But it is unclear how much of that military hardware deployed in the north was there before 1988 and transferred to and from Turkey to be upgraded.

Turkey has maintained a heavily armed force of more than 35,000 troops in the north pitted against a 10,000-strong National Guard that poses no real threat.

The number of tanks stationed in the north has risen by 67% since 2000 and APCs are up by 74%."