Cyprus buys 'Iron Dome' – media
The Cypriot Defense Ministry has struck a deal with Israel to purchase Iron Dome air defense systems, the local edition of Kathimerini reported on Friday. According to the newspaper, the deal has been finalized, though neither Nicosia nor Tel Aviv have confirmed it publicly so far.
Cypriot National Guard commander, Lieutenant General Dimokritos Zervakis, visited Israel in March. At the time the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed that “...the general will receive a briefing at the northern border and will visit an Iron Dome air-defense system battery.”
Earlier reports in Israeli and Greek media indicated that the two nations had been holding talks about the deal since at least early 2021.
Cyprus currently possesses US-made short range air defense systems (SHORAD) produced by Northrop Grumman. According to media reports, Nicosia still considers them the “best fit” to counter what it considers the most pressing threats. Nevertheless, the Cypriot air defense forces are also increasingly concerned about Turkish-made drones, including Bayraktar UAVs.
Kathimerini reports that the Cypriot National Guard insisted on acquiring the Israeli air defense systems, citing its “operational demands.” Israeli arms manufacturer Rafael advertises the Iron Dome as a “combat-proven” system with “over 2,000 interceptions.” It is capable of countering rockets, mortar, and artillery shells, as well as “aircraft, helicopters and UAVs at very short range,” the company says.
Cyprus and Greece accused Turkey of stirring up tensions in the eastern Mediterranean in late July, as Ankara prepared to send a drillship to the area to search for natural gas. Cyprus, which is split along ethnic lines between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, is a major point of contention between Athens and Ankara.
The island nation was partitioned in 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third in response to a Greek-inspired coup. Turkish forces still maintain a presence in the northern part of the island, which calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It is considered by the international community to be part of the Republic of Cyprus, and its independence is only recognized by Ankara.
The developments come just days after Turkey and Israel announced the normalization of ties and full restoration of diplomatic relations, as their ambassadors returned to Tel Aviv and Ankara following years of tensions. It is unclear whether a reported arms deal with Cyprus would affect relations between Israel and Turkey. Ankara has not yet commented on the reports.