Statement by the Spokesman of the US State Department (6 January 1997)

The Government of Cyprus has signed a contract, January 4, to purchase the Russian S-300 anti-aircraft missile system. This is commonly referred as the SA-10 in the United States, but the Russians call it the S-300 anti-aircraft system. The United States regrets this step. And we have made it clear to the Government of Cyprus, and others, that we believe that this will complicate efforts to achieve a lasting peace in Cyprus. The Cypriot decision introduces a new and destabilising military element on the Island and in the region at the very time that the international community is exploring ways to foster political cooperation to significantly advance the settlement. Cyprus is already one of the most militarised regions in the world. Turkey maintains a very large military force on the Island. And both are already heavily armed.

Lasting security and peace for the people of Cyprus can only be achieved at the bargaining table with all sides committed to finding a solution. The past has shown that importing weapons has brought only arms increases from the other side. This new missile system is even more troubling, as it threatens to take the arms buildup on Cyprus to a new and disturbing qualitative level.

The United nations security council only last month warned that the importation of sophisticated weaponry threatens to raise tensions and complicate peace efforts.

Regardless of when this system might be deployed, we believe the conclusion of this sales contracts makes any mediation effort that much more difficult, and it harms the political atmosphere. The action of the government of Cyprus is a step down the wrong path.

The United States remains committed to pursuing efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem. Working with the international community, president Clinton is determined to move forward. For these efforts to succeed, the parties and their partners in the region must also be prepared to make the tough choices necessary in negotiations. All parties bear responsibility to adopt concrete measures to decrease tensions, such as reducing defence expenditures, ending provocative military exercises, and improving safety along the cease-fire lines all of this necessary to advance a political settlement on Cyprus.