Cyprus heralds the lifting of US arms embargo

1 min read

Nicosia hailed the US lifting its 1987 arms embargo on Cyprus as a political breakthrough that showed the increasing importance of the region to Washington, said Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.

He said the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 also sends out “significant diplomatic and political messages” about how the US perceives growing energy cooperation between Cyprus, Greece and Israel.

Christodoulides said, however, that the Republic of Cyprus does not intend to buy US weapons at this stage.

He said more developments should be expected as Washington and Nicosia intensify their discussions to waive the visa requirement for Cypriot passport holders visiting the US and discuss upgrading their agreement on double taxation avoidance.

Since 2013 there has been a concerted effort by the Foreign Ministry to differentiate the approach of the US towards Cyprus, solely on the basis of the Cyprus problem or US-Turkey relations.

“We deem this important for our bilateral relations, our trilateral cooperation with Greece and Israel and for the Eastern Mediterranean in general.”

Christodoulides said the US act doesn’t affect Nicosia’s relations with Russia where concrete developments in bilateral relations with Moscow are expected next year.

Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio who co-authored the bill called the legislation “a comprehensive re-calibration of American diplomatic, military, and economic policy towards the Eastern Mediterranean and a strong and prosperous alliance between the United States, Greece, Israel, and Cyprus.”

Among the key aspects of this partnership is a plan for an EastMed pipeline to convey Cypriot and Israeli offshore gas to mainland Europe via Greece.

The act also lifts a 32-year-old US arms embargo on Cyprus which Christodoulides said is primarily a symbolic action that paves the way for the upgrading of US-Cyprus relations.

“Our vision for the region is to see all states together, without excluding anyone, even Turkey … confronting both the challenges and prospects the region faces,” said Christodoulides.

Turkey doesn’t recognize European Union-member Cyprus as a state and says that part of the waters where the island has exclusive economic rights fall within its own continental shelf.

Ankara also strongly objects to the Cypriot government’s gas search and has dispatched warship-escorted vessels to carry out exploratory drilling off Cyprus, including in areas where energy companies such as Italy’s Eni and France’s Total are licensed to drill.

The EU has condemned Turkey’s actions and has prepared sanctions against it.

Turkey said that lifting the US arms embargo on Cyprus “will have no outcome other than hampering efforts towards a settlement on the island and creating a dangerous escalation.”

Christodoulides said Cyprus would continue to offer its facilities to any other country wishing to mount humanitarian operations in the region.