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Cyprus joins European Defense Alliance
2005-12-07 13:35:08

Nicosia, Dec 7 - Cyprus has officially entered into the European defence regime. Between November 22 and December 1, Cyprus participated in a military exercise held by the European Union, operating under the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy.

A Cyprus Defence Ministry press release said the EU considered this exercise extremely important, and stressed:

"The EU will reap great benefits from this military alliance. Not from having extra Cypriot troops or military equipment at the EU's disposal, but because of the strategic importance of Cyprus' geographic location in the eastern Mediterranean.

"Now that the EU flag is flying over this island, the Continent can exert more influence in the Middle East. The nation of Israel is already looking to European peacekeepers for help. Cyprus is the perfect stepping stone for any future EU operations in the Middle East." This was a major incentive for the EU to admit Cyprus into the Union, despite unsettled disputes with Turkey, a strong NATO ally.

Meanwhile, in Brussels, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul did not attend Wednesday's dinner of European Union and NATO Foreign Ministers, organized by Belgium’s FM Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht in protest over Cyprus' presence.

Mr. Gul's decision to opt out of the working dinner was in protest to the presence of Cypriot Foreign Minister George Iacovou at the dinner. Turkey was represented by its Permanent Representative to NATO ambassador Umit Pamir.

Ankara’s action reflects its policy to prevent the participation of Cyprus in euro-atlantic cooperation procedures. According to community sources, Turkey is currently disappointed with a decision by Nicosia to veto Turkey’s accession to the Western European Armaments Organisation.

During the dinner, that traditionally takes place on the eve of the NATO ministerial conference which is being held today at the NATO headquarters, issues concerning the north-atlantic dialogue were examined. It was attended by the 26 NATO states and the 25 EU member states.

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