Defence Minister Fotis Fotiou has said the test launch of the contentious Cypriot-purchased S-300 missiles on Friday aimed to quash rumours that they had become obsolete.
The purchase of the missiles back in 1997 had created a political standoff between Cyprus and Turkey and a crisis which threatened to escalate into war.
Yesterday’s test launch in Crete was also observed by Greek Defence Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.
“This launch has put to bed malicious rumours that these missiles are useless and that they are still a powerful tool in the defence of Cyprus’ Common Defence Air Space Dogma with Greece”, said Fotiou. The 1997-1998 missile crisis escalation had reached critical levels when Greece and Russia threatened to intervene if the island was attacked by Turkish forces.
Former President Glafcos Clerides had ordered the purchase of the two powerful missiles and their delivery to Cyprus prompting then Turkish Defence Minister Turhan Tayan to overtly threaten either a pre-emptive strike to prevent the arrival of the missiles, or actual war on Cyprus as a response to the arrival of the missiles.
The crisis effectively ended in December the following year with the decision of the Cypriot government to transfer the S-300s to Crete, in exchange for alternative weapons from Greece.
“Despite the economic crisis gripping Greece and Cyprus and despite the hardships being endured by Hellenism, we have shown that we have the available means to defend our rights”, continued Fotiou. “These missiles are a valuable defensive military system with a far-reaching range and with a high-rate of reaching their target.”