Cyprus Seeks Merkava Tanks: Negotiating with Israel

Such a deal could complicate Jerusalem’s relations with Ankara, which views any arms acquisition by Cyprus with suspicion.

Advanced negotiations are underway between Israel and two foreign customers for the sale of second-hand Merkava battle tanks, according to Yair Kulas, director of international defense cooperation. Although one of the clients remains unknown, sources told the Haaretz newspaper that one of the countries in talks with Israel would be Cyprus, a member of the European Union.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense did not confirm this hypothesis, simply stating in a statement: “Due to the war in Europe, several countries have expressed interest in Israeli equipment, including Merkava tanks withdrawn from service some time ago. few years. The negotiations have not yet been concluded”.

Statements on the importance of relations in the field of security and frequent contacts between the leaders of the two countries support this hypothesis. If the agreement is reached, Cyprus could replace its AMX-30 tanks or part of its T-80s of Russian origin, which could then be delivered to Ukraine. However, some Cypriot sources have denied this intention. Cyprus must replace its Russian equipment because of the sanctions imposed by the European Union on Moscow, which makes their maintenance difficult.

Moreover, such an agreement could complicate Israel’s relations with Turkey, which views any arms acquisition by Cyprus with suspicion due to its proximity to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Relations between Israel and Turkey were restored in August 2022 after a long period of diplomatic tensions. The acquisition of Merkava tanks by Cyprus raises concerns from Ankara about a possible arms race on the island.

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