Cyprus will allocate 2 percent of its gross domestic product to defense spending, in line with other European Union member states, as a means of strengthening the eastern Mediterranean island nation’s foreign policy bargaining power, the new president said on Friday cypriot.
Nikos Christodoulides told reporters after a visit to a special forces training camp that aims to put Cyprus among other countries like Greece and France, “at the heart” of a recent EU push to boost the bloc’s deterrent capabilities and defense infrastructure.
“I was also foreign minister and I know that without a strong deterrent force, without a strong defence, your voice on foreign policy matters is clearly limited,” Christodoulides said.
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According to official data, Cyprus’ GDP in 2022 was estimated at €27 billion. A target of 2% of GDP would mark a slight increase in current expenditure for the ethnically divided armed forces of Cyprus. It also reflects the commitment of NATO members to spend 2% of their GDP on defense spending, although Christodoulides said he has no intention of applying for membership in the military alliance at this time.
Cyprus was partitioned in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a junta-backed coup in Athens aimed at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence in the northern third of the island, where it maintains more than 35,000 troops.
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“As long as there is occupation in our country, we are obliged to strengthen our deterrent capabilities,” said Christodoulides.
The president, who defeated a career diplomat in the Feb. 12 runoff to win the presidency, said his government would also strive to underscore Cyprus’ status as an EU member to improve defense cooperation with neighboring countries .
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He also hailed the September 2022 full lifting of a decades-old US arms embargo on Cyprus as a significant decision his government would “use.” The decision makes Cyprus eligible for “”exports, re-exports and transfers of defense articles … for the 2023 fiscal year”.