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Turkey Criticizes US Move to End Defense Trade Limit on Cyprus

(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Turkey criticized a US move to lift defense trade restrictions for Cyprus, setting up a potential new rift in Ankara’s bid to buy US fighter jets. 

The US decision came after anti-money laundering efforts on the divided island and the Republic of Cyprus’s denial of Russian vessels to its ports for refueling and servicing, the State Department said Friday in a statement posted on its website. 

Turkey warned that the decision may lead to an arms race on Cyprus, harming stability in the eastern Mediterranean. 

“We call on the US to reconsider this decision and to pursue a balanced policy toward the two sides on the island,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said. 

Northeastern Cyprus, or about one-third of the island, has been occupied by Turkey since the 1970s. The self-declared Turkish-Cypriot state founded in 1983 is still only recognized by Ankara. 

The US drew similar ire from Turkey’s government in 2020 when it eased a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus during the Trump administration. 

F-16 Fighter Jets

Turkey is seeking a new deal with the US on dozens of F-16 fighter aircraft in a bid to modernize its aging fleet. It was removed from the more advanced F-35 jet program in 2019 after buying a Russian-made missile defense system in defiance of a US request. 

But Turkey’s ongoing tensions with Greece and Cyprus have threatened to derail the negotiations. 

The US House in July proposed allowing President Joe Biden to sell Turkey the upgraded F-16s on the condition that Ankara won’t deploy them for unauthorized territorial overflights of Greece.

In response, Turkey said it wouldn’t buy the planes if restrictions are imposed on their use. Tensions between Turkey and Greece have risen since then. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up criticism of what Turkey calls a growing Greek military buildup on islands close to its coastline as well as Western military support to Greece. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Erdogan’s remarks are “aggressive rhetoric,” although he said this week he’s “always open” to meeting with Turkey’s leader. 

Source : Bloomberg