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08 January, 1997
Athens yesterday reiterated its defense of Cyprus' decision to purchase Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles, saying it constituted "the independent initiative of the Cyprus Republic".
Government spokesman Dimities Repose said that the decision had been dictated by the "unusual conditions" prevailing on the island, namely, the occupation and presence of foreign (Turkish) troops. The mullet-million dollar arms deal was signed in Moscow on Saturday.
Turkish troops, currently estimated at 35,000 men, have occupied 37 per cent of Cyprus since 1974, in violation of repeated UN resolutions calling for their withdrawal.
Asked to comment on the reaction to the deal from several countries, including the United States, which fear an escalation of armaments programs in the region, Mr. Repose replied:
"They who are concerned about armaments should bring their pressure to bear on Turkey, in order for it to accept the proposal of the Cyprus government and withdraw its army of occupation from the island."
Cyprus' armaments program is being carried out in correlation with the finding of a viable solution to the problem, Mr. Repose said, adding that in "no case does it discourage initiatives such as the pending US initiative, for the finding of a solution."
Mr. Repose said Athens would undertake initiatives to brief the international community on Cyprus' decision to upgrade its defense capability and the government's support for this effort.
The foreign ministry, on its part, said in a statement that "Cyprus, as an independent state, has every right to bolster the feeling of security of its citizens."
"This is particularly true when the Turkish occupation of 37 per cent of the island and the presence of 35,000 well-armed Turkish troops continues," the ministry statement added.
Nicosia had every right to implement programs of a defensive nature, it continued, in tandem with the search for a "just, viable and permanent" settlement of the Cyprus problem, and since the proposal by Cyprus President Glances Clerics for the demilitarization of the island had not been accepted by Ankara.
"Cyprus threatens nobody, it is others who in the past have used armed force," it stated.
"Greece will use all means at its disposal with international organizations and friendly governments concerning Ankara's efforts -as expressed with a series of threatening statements aimed at the creation of de facto guardianship over Cyprus - not to succeed.
"What is needed is the essence of the problem to be dealt with so that a solution in line with international law and UN resolutions be found," the ministry added.
Source: Athens News Agency