The timing of the US decision to end a 33-year embargo on the sale to Cyprus of non-lethal arms was seen in Athens as having substantial diplomatic value at a time of fever-pitch tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean with Turkey.
The State Department’s timing, amid the East Med crisis but also the threats from Ankara to settle the ghost town of Varosha in Famagusta in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, is seen as an indirect message that Washington is moving to strengthen rather than undermine stability in the region.
The lifting of the embargo will be valid for one year and can be renewed on an annual basis. US officials reportedly said that the decision is not related to recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean.
At the same time, after the ratification of the Greek-Egyptian exclusive economic zone agreement, Athens expects that the relevant maps will be posted at the United Nations.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias will be in New York on Friday, where he will meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to brief him about Greece’s agreements with Italy and Egypt.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described Greece as “bait” that is being used by other countries. “The greatest injustice is done by those who tried to fulfill their ambitions by propping up a state that exists by hiding behind others. We’re tired of the shadow play. It’s comical to use a country that can’t even help itself to bait a regional and global power like Turkey,” Erdogan said.
At the same time, the government-affiliated Yeni Safak said that the transfer of Greek forces to Kastellorizo gives Turkey the right to intervene on the island – in other words to invade it.
What’s more, the German newspaper Die Welt claimed in a report on Tuesday that Erdogan ordered his generals a few days ago to provoke a military incident by sinking a Greek ship or shooting down an aircraft. However, the paper said the generals refused.
Against this backdrop, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will announce plans on September 12 and 13 to boost Greece’s deterrence power. Minister of State Giorgos Gerapetritis said that “there will be an upgrade in the number and operational capacity of the personnel of the armed forces.”
“We have a menu of options regarding the upgrade of the existing weapons systems but also the purchase of new ones, within the budgetary space that we will have.”