Turkiye is set to reinforce its military presence of 40,000 troops in northern Cyprus with more arms and equipment, following the United States’ lifting of an arms embargo off the island.
Speaking to CNN Turk in a televised interview, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the lifting of the embargo “inexplicable in terms of content and timing”. He stated that the US, “which overlooks and even encourages the steps by the Cypriot-Greek duo that threaten peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean, will lead to an armament race on the island with this step”.
Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry made the same warning of an arms race earlier this month after Washington’s decision was announced. According to Ankara, the embargo – which was imposed in 1987 – prevented such a build-up of arms and ensured a lack of military conflict in Cyprus after Turkish forces landed on the north of the island in 1974, following a Greek-backed coup which threatened the Turkish Cypriot population.
“Will we stand by? We cannot,” the President stated, saying Turkish forces on the island already consist of 40,000 troops which will be reinforced with land, naval and aerial weapons, as well as ammunition and vehicles. “Everyone must know that this last step will not go unresponded and that every precaution will be taken for the security of the Turkish Cypriots”.