US seeks assurances Cyprus will deny Russian navy access

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Washington expects further assurances from Cyprus that it will deny port access to Russian naval ships as doing so is a key element of the Eastern Mediterranean pact.

This was the message from Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs during a briefing on his visits to Greece and Cyprus last month.

“We discussed plans to provide educational opportunities to the Republic of Cyprus’s military personnel…and then, of course, we went into the recently announced expanded access to non-lethal U.S.-origin defence articles,” Cooper said.

The US official said that while in Cyprus, “we made significant progress on anti-money laundering reforms”.

“However, I did specifically note that Cyprus has not yet taken the steps necessary to deny port access to Russian naval vessels.

These and other steps are certainly necessary, but they’re also part of the Eastern Mediterranean strategy as well as the Energy Partnership Act of 2019 (with Cyprus Greece and Israel).

We certainly want the Republic of Cyprus to pursue in this direction. This would also enable us to further continued access to ITAR-controlled defence articles.”

Washington partially lifted a 33-year arms embargo on Cyprus as part of its East Med Act which also calls on Nicosia not to facilitate Russian navy vessels at its ports.

Asked about the lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus, Cooper said that this has to do with “articles of a limited nature, of a non-kinetic nature” while it also opened up the opportunity for education and training.

“But that said, for us to go further with the Republic of Cyprus, we do need to see further assurances on their ability to deny port access to Russian naval vessels.

“Those are very honest conversations. We certainly appreciate the legacy nature as to those port calls.

“We certainly appreciate where there may have been some historic economic interest.

“But again, moving forward as Cyprus takes a greater role in the Eastern Mediterranean and it takes on greater responsibilities that are supportive of European Union as well as NATO requirements, we do need to be more interoperable with them, and that does require addressing the portage issue.”

The US official assured that there is certainly desire in the United States to proceed.

“It is why when we look at the Eastern Mediterranean Security Act as well as the Energy Partnership Act of 2019, why Cyprus factors in that space and why we are looking to have a closer relationship with them bilaterally and multilaterally.” (source CNA)