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23 May, 1998
Supreme Allied Commander Europe, US Gen. Wesley Clark, yesterday expressed concern over "the situation that could develop in Cyprus" after the planned deployment of Russian-made S-300 anti-aircraft missiles on the island republic.
Gen. Clark, speaking during a US Pentagon briefing on the situation in Bosnia, told reporters that Washington was "naturally very concerned about the situation with the S-300s and how it could develop in Cyprus".
"We are also interested in the continuation of peace between Greece and Turkey and in the strengthening of their cooperation in the Aegean," Gen. Clark said, adding that there had been "signs of progress" over the past year in the Aegean.
He said development of the Reconnaissance Aircraft Projector (RAP) at NATO headquarters in Naples had "allowed us to quickly ascertain and confirm incidents involving the Greek and Turkish air forces through information shared and easily analyzed by the two sides."
"RAP is operating from the southeastern flank in Naples, and I think it is an indication of the partial progress that has been achieved," Gen. Clark said.
He described Cyprus as a "potential tension point", and said the best way to avoid concerns was to reduce the tension that existed there. Replying to questions, Gen. Clark said he did not see a role that NATO could play in Cyprus.
Gov't spokesman on S-300 missiles
Cyprus has the right to defend itself like any other member-state of the United Nations, government spokesman Dimitris Reppas replied in later statements.
Mr. Reppas was commenting on Gen. Clark's remarks of a possible worsening of the situation in Cyprus in the event that the island republic deploys the S-300 missiles.
The government of Cyprus is handling the issue with utmost responsibility, with the backing of Greece, and if progress is achieved in talks on the Cyprus issue or procedures commence for the demilitarization of the island, then new realities will be created and the issue will be dealt on the basis of these realities, he added.
Source: Athens News Agency