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Politics

France Joins Cyprus for Air Defense Drill Over Divided Island

February 15, 2022

NICOSIA – As Greece’s Parliament was expected to ok a deal to buy French arms, Cyprus carried out air defense exercises with French fighter pilots that included mock attack drills.

The maneuvers, code named Talos 2022, included French Rafale planes, the model that Greece is buying, in a test of how prepared the air defenses were on a island where Turkish-Cypriots have occupied the northern third since unlawful 1974 invasions by Turkey.

“The exercise involved the entry of a formation of fighter aircraft at low altitude … The main purpose of the exercise was to evaluate the response of the air defense system and to train the personnel of the National Guard in realistic conditions,” a press release said, reported the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

It came as the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle was in the Eastern Mediterranean but not being used to protect a French energy company licensed in the drill in waters that Turkey has disputed.

The aircraft carrier has taken part in several exercises with Cypriot air and air defense forces as part of a bilateral defense cooperation agreement between Cyprus and France, the report said.

The exercise, said the press release, “sends a very positive signal about the willingness of both countries for cooperation in order to strengthen even more the bilateral ties in the domain of security and defense.”

Greece’s Parliament controlled by the ruling New Democracy government was expected to apperove a 3-billion-euro ($3.4 billion) agreement for three new French-made frigates to deal with Turkish provocations.

Lawmakers were debating whether to add six new Rafale fighter jets to an order for 18 planes ‒ six of them newly built and 12 that were previously in service in the French Air Force.

Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said the Greek military needs to modernize following repeated funding cuts during the country’s acute 2010-18 financial crisis.

“There is no armament program that is ‘slightly necessary’ or ‘somewhat necessary’,” Panagiotopoulos told lawmakers in a committee-level debate in Parliament. “All of the armament programs that we have submitted for approval, in one way or another, are absolutely necessary for the armed forces ‒ extremely necessary, urgently necessary,” he said.

The major opposition SYRIZA opposes purchase of the French fighter jets and complained about how Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is dealing with the Turkish threat.

Made by France’s Naval Group, two warships are due to be delivered in 2025 and the third the following year, with an option to add a fourth frigate to be ready in 2027 for delivery.

 

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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