Cyprus wargames to go ahead

Greek and Cypriot military forces are to proceed with the annual Nikiforos-Toxotis maneuvers on Cyprus that were canceled last year in view of the United Nations-sponsored reunification talks, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou insisted yesterday during a visit to the island. Meanwhile, in Athens a Foreign Ministry spokesman expressed fears that political instability in Turkey following the possible revision of last November’s parliamentary election results could further damage efforts to find a solution to Cyprus’s 29-year division in the seven months left before the island joins the European Union. Papantoniou said there was no question of the joint exercises – which involve army, navy and air force units – being put off again. «Nikiforos-Toxotis will go ahead as normal, there was never a question of them not taking place,» he said after a meeting with his Cypriot counterpart, Koulis Mavronikolas. Papantoniou also stressed that Athens remains committed to including Cyprus in its defense umbrella. «Greece attaches great significance to the dogma of a joint defense area, and is not just a verbal guarantor of Cyprus’s security,» he said. «All the weapons systems Greece has purchased in recent years have the additional function of fully covering the joint defense area – and that applies in particular to the 70 F-16 fighter aircraft we have just bought. For the first time, they fully cover the joint defense area and can fly to Cyprus and back without refueling.» Papantoniou will represent the Greek government at today’s Independence Day parade in Nicosia. In Athens yesterday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis said the looming political crisis in Turkey could «create a new mood of political introspection in Turkey and result in a loss of time regarding Cyprus.»