Cyprus President Nikos Anastasiades has welcomed the US announcement that it will lift an arms embargo against the Mediterranean country that has been in place for decades. This is a “historic decision,” Anastasiades wrote on Twitter. Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias spoke of a “political milestone”. On the other hand, the government of the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus said the move could lead to an escalation in the region. A similar statement came from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington would allow military equipment to be exported to Cyprus for the first time in 35 years. The decision is reviewed annually. By late 2019, the United States had already lifted an arms embargo on “non-lethal” military supplies. With the full repeal now announced, Cyprus must “continue its cooperation” with Washington, a US State Department spokesman said. In particular, the government in Nicosia must continue to take the “necessary steps” to deny Russian warships access to Cypriot ports for refueling and maintenance.
Port Access Agreement
US officials had feared that a continuation of the arms embargo could tie Cyprus more closely to Russia. The Mediterranean state and Moscow signed an agreement in 2015 on access for the Russian Navy to Cyprus ports. In 1987, the United States imposed an arms export ban on the entire island with the aim of promoting a peaceful solution to the Cyprus conflict. Critics had complained that the measure was counterproductive; it forced the Republic of Cyprus and its guarantor power Greece to look for other partners.
The Mediterranean island of Cyprus has been divided since 1974. At that time, the Turkish army had occupied the north after a military coup by the Greek Cypriots. Turkey is the only country to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which was proclaimed in 1983. The Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in 2004.
Negotiations on a solution to the Cyprus conflict have repeatedly failed. Northern Cyprus and Ankara insist on a two-state solution, which Nicosia and also the United Nations reject. The UN continues to call for a federal solution with two states. Recently, there had also been a dispute between Cyprus and Turkey over the use of gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
jj/qu (dpa, afp)