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United States partially lifts Cyprus arms embargo.

Image Credit: Reuters/Yiannis Kourtoglou

On Tuesday, the United States government partially lifted a 1987 arms embargo on Cyprus, infuriating Turkey. The arms embargo which concerned non-lethal equipment was announced by telephone, when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades to inform him of the US decision. During a press briefing, US officials said that the partial lifting of the arms embargo will be for a year, but will be extended if necessary. US officials made it clear that the lifting of the arms embargo was not related to the recent events in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In 2019, United States initiated the process of removing the 33-year old arms embargo, after the US saw ‘added value’ of allowing the sale of military equipment to the Eastern Mediterranean island. This did not bode well with both Turkey and Russia back then. The Russia FM believes that it is an attempt by United States to arm Cyprus to counter Russian ever growing influence in the Mediterranean.

On Tuesday, Mike Pompeo said on Twitter that ‘Cyprus is a key partner in the Eastern Mediterranean. I am pleased to announce that we are deepening our security cooperation. We will waive restrictions on the sale of non-lethal defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus for the coming fiscal year.’

The 1987 US arms embargo was aimed to prevent the buildup of military armaments, which would hamper efforts in reunifying Cyprus. Cyprus was split in half in 1974, after a Turkish forces invaded Cyprus after a coup, aimed at removing the political leader at the time to have a better union with Greece.

Turkey criticized the US decision and claimed they would take ‘the necessary steps’ unless US goes back on their decision. The Turkish Foreign Ministry said that this would ‘adversely affect efforts to resolve the Cyprus decision.’ The Turkish FM added that ‘Turkey as a guarantor country, will take the necessary reciprocal steps in line with its legal and historical responsibility to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people.’

‘In a period in which efforts are being made to reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the US’ signing of such a decision poisons regional peace and stability.’ the Turkish FM said in a statement.

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