On October 26, an undisclosed number of F-22 fighter jets flew over Cyprus, according to Greek media, which claimed that Ankara was not pleased with the detour the F-22s made over the north of the island.
The fighter jets are said to have flown over Famagusta, part of Turkish-occupied Cyprus. The mission over Cyprus was carried out by F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft from the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
The F-22 Raptors arrived in Souda Bay, Crete, Greece, on October 20 to carry out an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) Exercise.
Greek media reported that the Republic approved the latest mission of Cyprus’ foreign ministry after Washington obtained a verbal note of approval to perform the drill through the US Embassy.
It was unclear if Turkey had consented to the flight to pass over the north. However, according to Greek media, Ankara was enraged about the exercise and demanded that it be called off.
Meanwhile, ACE training sessions are held by the US Air Force regularly. ACE drills are an integral aspect of routine training for US airmen to operate from various places with diverse levels of capacity and support, strengthening their ability to deploy, survive, operate, and successfully maneuver.
Nemesis, a different international exercise, is also planned to be organized in Cyprus next week. In the international exercise “Nemesis 2022,” frigates and helicopters from eight countries, including the US, Greece, France, and Israel, will participate.
Greece and Turkey have been blaming one another for the rise in regional tensions, with Athens appealing to foreign allies for assistance and Ankara vowing to take all appropriate steps to defend its rights and interests.
The latest development comes just a few weeks after the United States removed its arms embargo against the Republic of Cyprus.
At the time, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades hailed Washington’s “landmark” decision to end a decades-old arms embargo, subject to Nicosia’s continued obstruction of Russian warships from entering its ports.
In 1987, the United States placed an arms embargo on the whole of Cyprus to facilitate the island’s reunification.
Observers allege that the embargo was ineffective since it forced Cyprus to look for new allies when NATO member Turkey had troops stationed in northern Cyprus since its invasion in 1974.
The US Congress decided to waive the arms embargo in December 2019 to permit the sale of “non-lethal” military equipment. US officials were worried that the restriction would bring Cyprus closer to Russia after the island inked an agreement in 2015 with Moscow to give its navy ships access to Cypriot ports.
These developments occurred when the US and Turkey relations worsened since Turkey purchased S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia in 2016. The Russian-supplied S-400, according to the US, might be used to gather sensitive data on its advanced fighter jets.
Turkey refused to give up the weapon and was blocked from purchasing fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets. So far, the US Congress has also blocked Ankara from modernizing its existing F-16s.
In November 2019, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez said, “Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 was a shocking attempt to redraw European borders in the wake of World War II. And to this day, Turkey’s invasion of the north of Cyprus must be seen for what it is – an illegal occupation that must end.”
On the other hand, Cyprus has strengthened its defenses by taking advantage of the rift in US-Turkish ties. Since 2020, it has increased its involvement in the annual air and naval military exercises with Italy, France, and Greece. Cyprus insists that its goals are defensive.
Furthermore, the country’s defense minister, Haralambos Petridis, has stated that the government intends to purchase air defense systems. The latest development, meanwhile, shows the growing collaboration between the US and Cyprus.