Cyprus Mail — Cyprus and Greece on Monday discussed possibilities for cooperation in the defence industry within the framework of the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (Pesco).
Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides met in Nicosia with Greece’s Alternate Minister of Defence Dimitris Vitsas, who is in Cyprus to attend a ceremony on Tuesday for the handover of remains belonging to Greek nationals who died in August 1964 while on board the patrol boat Phaethon at Tyllirias when it was bombed by Turkey.
In statements after Monday’s meeting, Fokaides said Nicosia aimed to increase defence spending to 2 per cent of GDP in line with the broader European target under Pesco, which is also along the lines of what Nato members are required to spend.
Fokaides also announced that the two sides finalised a contract for the procurement of 11 general-purpose trucks, which had been pending.
Fokaides said various obstacles to the procurement of military equipment to Cyprus were being lifted through Pesco, which he said was a significant development.
Following the 1974 Turkish invasion, Cyprus could not procure arms from the US or Europe. The US embargo was lifted in late 2015 for defensive weapons only. Cyprus has bought arms over the years from Russia and Greece. In the late 80s France agreed to sell the Republic its first serious hardware in the form of modern battle tanks, anti-tank helicopters, anti-tank missiles, and self-propelled artillery.
Vitsas said cooperation between Athens and Nicosia was constantly being pushed forward and it had on Monday taken another step towards this. Referring to Pesco, Vitsas said that Greece and Cyprus insisted on including regional defence industries in the overall EU framework, along with the major European arms suppliers.
The Greek Minister also met on Monday with Humanitarian Affairs Commissioner Photis Photiou ahead of Tuesday’s handover of remains. After the meeting, he sent out an appeal to all involved in the issue of missing persons to cooperate at the highest level to resolve the humanitarian concern.