NICOSIA – No match militarily for Turkey, which keeps a 35,000-strong army on the occupied northern third, Cyprus signed a contract with France for the purchase of military equipment worth 240 million euros ($262.71 million,) the Defense Ministry said.
That confirmed reports in the French media but the ministry said what was bought was too sensitive to national security to be announced, with Turkey drilling for energy in the island’s sovereign waters.
La Tribune, the French weekly financial newspaper, said Cyprus signed contracts with the French company MBDA for the purchase of Mistral (surface-to-air) and Exocet (anti-ship) missiles, although it wasn’t said where they would be deployed.
The Greek newspaper Kathimerini though had reported in January the purchase was part of a plan to modernize and upgrade the Cyprus armed forces and that the ministry also signed contracts for the modernization of the army’s surface-to-surface missiles, as well as a new French short/medium range air defense system.
France has become an ally of Cyprus and Greece against Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, where the French energy company Total is drilling for oil and gas, as Turkey sent warships nearby to protect its research vessels.
The flagship of the French navy, aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle remains stationed off the port of Limassol’s coast.
One of the six vessels accompanying the aircraft carrier, the French frigate Chevalier Paul” on the borders of Block 8 and 9 of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ,) is close to the Turkish drillship Yavuz, accused of violating Cyprus’ waters.