NICOSIA (AP)–Any attempt by Turkey to prevent the delivery of Russian anti-aircraft missiles ordered by Cyprus would result in a Russian-Turkish war–a Russian legislator said Friday.
Russia would also rush to the defense of Cyprus if Turkey attacked the S-300 missiles after their deployment–provided it is asked for help by Cyprus–said Alexei Arbatov–the deputy chairman of the Russian Parliament’s Defense Committee.
"If Turkey attacked the missiles while they were being transported to Cyprus–this would immediately mean war with Russia," Arbatov said in an interview with state-run Cyprus Television.
Cyprus maintains the missiles – expected to be delivered later this year – are a necessary defense against Turkish air attacks that could come should tensions increase over Cyprus–which is divided into Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot sectors.
Turkey has threatened to stop delivery of the missiles–and the United States and European nations have urged Cyprus to cancel the order for the missiles in fear their arrival could increase tensions.
Arbatov said Russia could only come to the aid of Cyprus if the two countries had a joint defense agreement. "But if Cyprus asked for this–the Duma could ratify a defense treaty in a day," he added.
The Russian lawmaker charged that the United States is opposed to the missile deployment "because they don’t want Russia to compete with American arms sales … and don’t want Russia’s to acquire greater political presence in the Eastern Mediterranean."
Greece–which has a joint defense agreement with Cyprus–said it will support Cyprus if it is attacked–a development that would involve it in a war with fellow NATO ally Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz repeated Turkey’s warning over the missiles Thursday before the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He said the deployment of the missiles would turn the standoff on the island into a regional conflict.