Facing Turkish Provocations, Cyprus Signs Defense Deal With France

Αssociated Press

An offshore drilling rig is seen in the waters off Cyprus coastal city of Limassol, Sunday, July 5, 2020 as a boat passes with a skier. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

With Turkish energy vessels hunting for oil and gas off Cyprus' shore – near where the French company Total was licensed by the legitimate government to drill – Cyprus and France have signed a defense cooperation agreement.

That was three years in the making but came during a crucial period as Turkey keeps operating during the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen international companies authorized to drill backing off as a health precaution.

The two-year agreement "provides for cooperation in the fields of armaments and defense technology, and staff training in France's military schools," officials said, United Press International reported.

Leaders also agreed to "hold joint exercises and organize mutual visits in the framework of activities of the armed forces of the two countries," Defense Minister Charlambos Petridis said in a statement.

Earlier this year, former Cypriot Defense Minister Savvas Angelides announced improvements to a navy base in the port of Limassol to accommodate French military vessels and the countries are expected to team up in defense technology and search and rescue plans.

Non-military elements of the agreement include cooperation in dealing with energy, maritime security, terrorism and piracy. It was signed in 2017 and put into force of Aug. 1, 2020, the two governments said.

Cyprus is a member of the European Union – Turkey isn't but belongs to the defense alliance NATO – which Cyprus doesn't, lessening its ability to deal with the growing Turkish provocations.

The European Union, fearful that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will unleash on the bloc through Greece more refugees and migrants who went to his country fleeing war and strife in their homelands has issued only soft sanctions.

The agreement is part of an effort by France to exercise more influence in the region, the news agency said, coming after  Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades met with French President Emmanuel Macron in July, leading to stronger French backing against Turkey, which didn't stop Erdogan.