Turkey will re-inforce its military presence in northern Cyprus after the United States lifted defense trade restrictions on Cyprus, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday.
Speaking in a televised interview with broadcaster CNN Turk, Erdogan said the lifting of the restrictions was “inexplicable in terms of content and timing.”
Earlier this month, the US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had lifted defense trade restrictions for Cyprus for fiscal year 2023.
“The United States, which overlooks and even encourages the steps by the Cypriot-Greek duo that threaten peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean, will lead to an armament race on the island with this step,” Erdogan said.
“Will we stand by? We cannot,” he said, adding that Turkey already has 40,000 troops on the island and will reinforce them with land, naval and aerial weapons, ammunition and vehicles, Erdogan said.
“Everyone must know that this last step will not go unresponded and that every precaution will be taken for the security of the Turkish Cypriots,” Erdogan said.
Cyprus was split following a 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Since then, Cyprus has been run by a Greek Cypriot administration in the south that Ankara does not recognize.
The breakaway Turkish state on the northern side of the divided island is only recognized by Ankara.