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.
It is with great satisfaction that I welcome the announcement by 🇺🇸 @StateDept on the complete lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus🇨🇾. This is a landmark decision, reflecting the burgeoning strategic relationship between the two countries, including in the area of security.
— Nicos Anastasiades (@AnastasiadesCY) September 17, 2022
The US State Department said on Friday evening that the Republic of Cyprus would be allowed to acquire US weapons again from October. This ends an embargo that Washington imposed in 1987 in hopes of increasing pressure for a negotiated solution to the dispute over the divided island. In addition, a further militarization of the conflict should be averted. The government of the internationally unrecognized “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” has now warned that the latest step could lead to an escalation in the region. A similar statement came from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry. That said in a statement that the lifting of the embargo would lead to an “arms race on the island” that would endanger peace in the region.
The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided into a Greek-dominated southern part and a pro-Turkish northern part of Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974, following a coup backed by the then military regime in Athens.
The US government had feared that a continuation of the US arms embargo could bind Cyprus more closely to Russia. The Christian-Orthodox island state has close cultural, economic and religious ties to Russia, also through the large Russian community. The Mediterranean state and the Russian Federation signed an agreement in 2015 on access for the Russian Navy to Cyprus ports. One condition for the sale of US armaments, however, is that future Russian warships are no longer allowed to call at Cypriot ports. With this step, the USA is also trying to put even more pressure on Turkey, which has so far not wanted to support the Western sanctions against the Kremlin.
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