Statement by The Spokesman of The British Foreign Office (9 January 1997 )

Our Charge d'Affaires in Nicosia met Cypriot Foreign Minister Michaelides on 9 January to express to the Government of Cyprus our dismay at their decision to buy surface-to-air missile systems. We urged them to reconsider.

Our Ambassadors in Ankara and Athens have stressed to the Turkish and Greek Governments the need for a measured approach to this issue. We have called for restraint in public statements and for measures to reduce rather than increase tension. As the Foreign Secretary said during his visit to Cyprus in December 1996, the only sensible direction for arms and troop numbers on both sides is downwards.

In the context of the UN-led international effort to promote a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus, the decision to buy this weapons system is not a welcome development. It points up the importance of progress towards such a settlement. Britain's determination to support to UN-led effort remains undiminished.