US to carry out military training with Cyprus
The US said it planned to conduct military training with Cyprus for the first time, defying fellow Nato member Turkey, which said the move threatened stability on the island.
Last year, the US Congress ended a decades-long arms embargo on Cyprus, the northern third of which is occupied by Turkey.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the State Department would fund military training for Cyprus as part of “our expanding security relationship” with the country.
“This is part of our efforts to enhance relationships with key regional partners to promote stability in the eastern Mediterranean,” Mr Pompeo said.
It will be part of the US International Military Education and Training programme, which seeks to increase co-operation between the US and foreign forces.
Ankara wanted the arms embargo to remain in place, saying that ending it would upset a balance of power on the island.
It also opposes the US training plan.
“As we repeatedly stressed in the past, these kind of steps do not contribute to efforts of finding a solution to the Cyprus problem, but further strengthen the Greek Cypriot side’s uncompromising attitude,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
“It is clear that steps that do not observe the balance between the two sides will not help in restoring an environment of trust on the island, as well as restoring peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”
The US imposed the embargo in 1987 to avoid an arms race and encourage a peaceful resolution on the island, the population of which is mainly Greek.
Critics say the embargo backfired by forcing Cyprus, which is now an EU member, to seek other partners.
Last year, Turkey angered the US by buying an advanced missile-defence system from Russia.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in 1974 after a coup engineered by the military regime in Athens at the time, which sought to unite the island with Greece.
Cyprus remained largely peaceful, with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders working to build ties.
But tensions flared recently over Turkish plans to drill for gas off the island, a move the EU said was illegal.
The US wants to strengthen security ties with Cyprus