Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides will discuss this week in Brussels with his EU counterparts a number of issues, including Ukraine, whose president is frustrated with Germany for stalling the delivery of Leopard tanks that Cyprus also reportedly wants.
Ukrainian President Volomydyr Zelensky has been urging Berlin to send Leopard tanks after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suggested he needed to be more carefully on the ramifications such a decision could have.
But Berlin announced on Sunday that it “would not stand in the way” after Polish officials warned they were ready to send their own German-made Leopards to Ukraine without permission.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made the statement to a French television network after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Warsaw was willing to supply Kiev with Leopard tanks without Berlin’s permission.
'The Cypriot government is convinced that a quick replacement of its T-80Us by Leopard 2s would be possible only if these Leopard 2s come from friendly Greece'
Ukraine is not the only country that has asked for Leopards.
Last October Greece had already received a small batch of German infantry fighting vehicles in what was reported as a swap deal between the two countries to assist Ukraine, fueling further rumors that a similar arrangement was in the works in Nicosia.
But Athens is also asking Berlin for more Leopard 2’s to prevent a depletion of its arsenal.
According to popular military website Army Recognition, Cyprus is prepared to transfer its Russian-made T-80U tanks to Ukraine in exchange for Leopard 2 from Greece.
“The Cypriot government is convinced that a quick replacement of its T-80Us by Leopard 2s would be possible only if these Leopard 2s come from friendly Greece,” AR wrote on Friday.
Cyprus has been asked by the United States and allies to transfer a wide range of Russian military equipment to Ukraine, with Nicosia asking for western replacements in return.
Last year Nicosia hinted at being open to the possibility of transferring military equipment to Ukraine but only through third countries and on the condition that Washington would completely lift a US arms embargo on Cyprus.
This condition was fulfilled in October by US President Joe Biden but with a Russian caveat.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades reiterated the position that there would be no direct transfer.
He did leave the door open for indirect transfers when he said “if there is a country that wants to replace our armaments with modern and equivalent systems that could be part of a decisive deterrent force, then this is something completely different.”
Washington had been calling on a number of countries to provide Ukraine with Russian-made weapons in order to make it easier for Ukrainian soldiers familiar with Soviet-era systems to hit the ground running as they fight the Russians.
Baerbock, who met Kasoulides in Berlin earlier this month, supported calls by Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, a fellow Green party member, had previously said “Germany should not stand in the way when other countries make decisions to support Ukraine, regardless of what decision Germany makes.”