Defence Cooperation Agreement Between US-GASC and the Future of the Relations

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On January 3, 2023, it was announced that the United States of America (USA) and the Greek Administration of Southern Cyprus (GASC) signed a Bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement.[1]  Regarding the issue, Lieutenant General Demokritos Zervakis, Commander of the National Guard Army of the GASC, shared the following statements on Twitter:[2]

“Delighted for the signing of our first ever GASC-US Bilateral Defence Cooperation Program. A flourishing and mutually reinforcing relationship is steadily expanding. More to follow.”

This development between the GASC and the US is quite remarkable both in terms of the Eastern Mediterranean’s geopolitics and the island of Cyprus. In early 2022, after the US withdrew from the EastMed Pipeline Project, the future of the energy relations between the GASC and the US was questioned, while different events took place in the context of security in 2022.

It can be stated that the first change in the GASC-US relations was in the field of security and started in 2018. In 2018, Washington partially lifted the arms embargo imposed on the GASC for more than 30 years.[3] Then, the second step from the US came in 2022 with the complete lifting of this embargo. Of course, this was perceived as a step that would change the security paradigms on the island of Cyprus and in the Eastern Mediterranean in general.

In this period, when global and regional power positions were reshaped with the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian War, the US focused on certain regions and increased its influence in these regions in terms of economy and security. The Eastern Mediterranean region can be added to these regions, which include the Asia-Pacific and Eastern Europe.

In the last few years, including 2022, the number of US military exercises in the region has increased considerably. Greece, Israel, Egypt and France, allies of the US and the GASC, have also participated in these military exercises. In addition, aircraft carriers, which are few in number in the world, are stationed on Greek islands in the Eastern Mediterranean,[4] especially Crete, and recently the US has been arming both the north and the islands of Greece.[5]

The fact that the GASC will be able to buy weapons from the US from now on will mean that the arms race on the island will increase even more. As long as the arms embargo was in place, the GASC purchased weapons from countries such as Israel and Russia to modernize its army and diversify its military inventory.[6] However, it can now be predicted that this pattern will change. In fact, the Bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement between the GASC and the US is thought to be aimed at this. In other words, the US is preparing the ground to sell arms to the GASC.

The Washington administration’s arms sales to the GASC could further strain the already tense relations between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)-GASC and, beyond that, could lead to a diplomatic confrontation between Greece and Türkiye, the guarantor countries of the island. Until today, the US has been seen to cooperate more closely with both the GASC and Greece militarily and politically; however, when it comes to Türkiye-TRNC and Greece-GASC relations, the US has tried to appear neutral and statements made by officials emphasizing the priority of “establishing peace in the region” have come to the fore. However, it is clear from the steps taken especially in 2022 that Washington is trying to turn the GASC into a base, just like Greece.

If the US realizes this plan, it can be argued that the political balances on the island of Cyprus, as well as the entire Eastern Mediterranean and even the Middle East, will be affected. The US naval and air forces in the region could bring Russia, which has been active in the region but has minimized its activities for some time due to the war in Ukraine, into a confrontation with the US.

It is also important to examine how the European powers will deal with the US in the Eastern Mediterranean. As it is known, France and Italy, which have been trying to influence this region since the past, have been active powers in the region by conducting search and rescue activities and military exercises. However, they operated in the region under the supervision of the US. However, if the GASC is armed by Washington, it will not only be about surveillance, but the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries will act more dominantly in the region.

Like the US, the United Kingdom (UK) is another country that is not directly related to the region geographically but maintains or tries to maintain its presence in the region for historical and political reasons. As it is known, the UK has an air base in Limassol, GASC. There have even been reports in the press that the UK uses this airbase as a bridge to Romania’s airports.[7] However, London has never directly used the airbase in the GASC to assist Ukraine. This could be attributed to the negative response of the President of the GASC, Nicos Anastasiades, to the issue of military aid to Ukraine.[8]

Although the UK and the US have emerged as good allies in the current circumstances, there is an implicit rivalry between them. This rivalry is evident in the UK’s efforts not to leave the US alone where the US has a sphere of influence. In 2022, despite the turmoil and instability in domestic politics, the UK followed the US in Ukraine, Asia-Pacific and many other regions and tried not to lag in establishing a sphere of influence. Therefore, if the US enters into a full-fledged military alliance with the GASC, the UK may try to maintain its influence in this region by utilizing the air bases in the GASC.

To summarize, the military developments that started in 2018 between the US and the GASCare likely to take concrete ground in 2023. In the first days of 2023, the signing of a bilateral military cooperation agreement, as well as the statements made by the GASC officials that such cooperation with Washington would continue, brought to mind the lifting of the arms embargo imposed by the US on the GASC for 30 years. If Washington starts arming the GASC in line with these agreements, the situation of the GASC will undoubtedly be like that of its number one ally Greece. In other words, the GASC will become a US military base in the Eastern Mediterranean. Of course, this would inflame the Cyprus Problem, which is frozen in a state of insolvency between the GASC and the TRNC and even lead to an escalation of the arms race on the island.

On the other hand, it should be noted that many actors are trying to establish a presence in then Eastern Mediterranean and the surrounding regions. It is possible to predict that Italy and France, which maintain a military presence in the region under the control of the Washington administration, will increase their activities together with the US. However, in the future, under this scenario, Russia and the US may confront each other in the Middle East. The UK, which seems to be an ally of the US but is in an implicit rivalry, will try not to leave the US alone in the GASC, as in other regions. It will try to do this with the British air base in the GASC. 

[1] “Cyprus and US sign first bilateral defense program”, KNEWS,, (Date of Accession: 11.01.2023).

[2] @chod_cy, “Delighted for the signing of our first ever 🇨🇾-🇺🇸 Bilateral Defence Cooperation Program. A flourishing and mutually reinforcing relation is steadily expanding. More to follow. #StrongerTogether”, Twitter,, (Date of Accession: 11.01.2023).

[3] “H.R.5508-End the Cyprus Arms Embargo Act”,,, (Date of Accession: 11.01.2022).

[4] “US Aircraft Carrier George Bush Arrives on Greek Island of Crete”, Middle East Monitor,, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023).                                                                                                                                   

[5] Thomas Kissel, “US Gives Extra Military Equipment to Greece”, Greek Reporter,, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023).

[6] Emmanuel Fabrian, “Cyprus Set to Buy Iron Dome from Israel-Report”, The Times of Israel,, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023).

[7] “Στρατιωτική ενίσχυση στην Ουκρανία μέσω Βρετανικών Βάσεων Κύπρο και Πακιστάν”, Sigmalive,, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023)

[8] “Ν. Αναστασιάδης: Δεν θα αποστείλει η Κύπρος οπλισμό στην Ουκρανία”, Euronews,, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2022).

Sevinç İrem BALCI
Sevinç İrem Balcı, Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümü mezunudur. İyi derecede İngilizce bilen Balcı, aynı zamanda Rusça ve Yunanca öğrenmektedir. Başlıca çalışma alanları Balkanlar ve Avrupa'dır.