UK signs defense agreement with Cyprus, but who can trust it?

In a meeting today in London, Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson penned an important agreement strengthening the existing deep defence links between the two nations.

UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

Cyprus is a valued partner and friend, and through signing this agreement we have reinforced our already close ties across defence for years to come.

Our bases in Cyprus are a vital asset in our fight against Daesh with Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets that were instrumental in the territorial defeat of the terrorist group in Syria flying out of RAF Akrotiri.

The UK and Cyprus have a close relationship and over the last few years have increased military co-operation and undertaken several large-scale joint exercises.

The Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus is a valued security asset to both the UK and our partners, giving us the ability to act swiftly in region when required. Most recently demonstrated in the fight against Daesh where the RAF conducted more than 1700 air strikes that lead to the territorial defeat in Syria.

Alongside this, the British military currently has approximately 250 people deployed on Op Tosca, the UK contribution to the UN peacekeeping force and HMS Duncan is currently visiting Cyprus and is docked in Limassol as part of the Charles De Gaulle Task Force.

How much can Cyprus rely on the UK
Although the UK is a guarantor state for the Republic of Cyprus, along with Greece and Turkey, it has remained detached in the efforts to reunite the island nation. It has maintained its two bases Akrotiri and Dhekelia which cover 3% of the land area of Cyprus, a total of 254 km2. It has never included them in the territory of the EU.

During the Turkish invasion of 1974, the UK despite its presence, on the island, and despite its status as a guarantor of Cyprus’ sovereignty did nothing to stop Turkish aggression, especially in the second phase, when Turkey broke the ceasefire and proceeded to occupy a third of the island.

If one were to judge from the past (the heavy-handed British occupation, the use of divide and rule tactics among the ethnic groups on the island, executions of captured guerillas, torture of civilians, and turning a blind eye to Turkish proclivities, and finally to the 1974 invasion) one would take this MoU with a grain of salt.

The idea that the UK will in some way aid Cyprus to “address common defence and security challenges” seems for many in Nicosia, as well as Athens, as an April Fool’s jest. The problem is they probably think it a joke in Ankara, as well. At least the French seem more earnest about their cooperation with Cyprus.