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Turkey says it is prepared to attack Cyprus

January 10, 1997

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey says it is prepared to attack Cyprus to block the deployment of new missiles, but the United States is warning the Turkish government against making threats.

``There is no way that we’ll allow these missiles to be placed in Cyprus,″ Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller said today. ``If they are deployed, Turkey is ready to do everything to protect the security of Turkish Cypriots, including striking their sites.″

Tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece rose over the Greek Cypriot government’s purchase of S-300 surface-to-air missiles capable of reaching the Turkish coast. Cyprus bought the missiles from Russia.

Ciller said Turkey would formally protest to Moscow about the sale.

In Athens, Greek Premier Costas Simitis brushed off similar remarks Thursday by Turkey’s defense minister, Turan Tayan, saying: ``We don’t need to worry. We are not before a giant crisis.″

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey sent in troops to protect the island’s Turkish minority after a short-lived coup by Cypriots seeking to unify with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the Turkish Cypriot state that was created in the north.

Tayan compared the current situation to the U.S. blockade of Cuba to stop the installation of Soviet missiles in the early 1960s, saying Turkey would use ``all the power in our hands to prevent the deployment of these missiles in Cyprus.″

The defense minister spoke during a visit to a factory on the outskirts of Ankara that manufactures F-16 fighter jets under U.S. license.

A U.S. State Department spokesman urged Turkey to remain calm.

``We hope it doesn’t reflect the views of the Turkish government,″ Nicholas Burns said Thursday in Washington. ``There can be no question that Turkey must not threaten Cyprus.″

The United States had opposed the missile deal.

A spokesman for the Russian government defended the sale, saying critics like the United States and Britain simply don’t want to see Russia profit.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov repeated Russia’s insistence that the missiles are purely defensive. He said the anti-aircraft system would help redress a military imbalance on Cyprus, where Turkish troops and weapons outnumber Greek Cypriot forces.

But Turkey says the missiles remain a threat.

``Turkey has enough power to defend its earned rights in Cyprus,″ Turkey’s prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, said Thursday. Earlier this week, Erbakan said Turkey could annex the north of Cyprus if necessary.

In Nicosia, the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash said today his self-styled government would suspend any U.N. negotiating initiative.

``The determination of the Greek Cypriots to go ahead with the sale clearly shows they are not for settlement but for war,″ Denktash said.

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