NICOSIA, Cyprus (TBEN) — Cyprus on Saturday praised the full lifting of a US arms embargo on the ethnically divided island nation as a milestone that reaffirms the increasingly close bilateral ties that serve to bolster stability in the turbulent Eastern Mediterranean.
President Nicos Anastasiades tweeted his thanks to the chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, for helping lift the embargo.
Turkey, which has more than 35,000 troops in the northern third of Cyprus, condemned the decision. The Turkish Foreign Ministry urged the US to reconsider, warning that the move would hurt efforts for a peace deal with Cyprus, lead to an arms race on the island and undermine regional stability.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has determined that Cyprus met the conditions for “export, re-export and transfer of defense items … for fiscal year 2023. “
The US will assess annually whether Cyprus meets the conditions for lifting the embargo, including implementing anti-money laundering rules and refusing Russian military ships to refuel and maintain ports.
Cyprus banned Russian warships from using the ports in early March after the invasion of Ukraine.
The terms are set out in the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act passed by the US Congress in 2019. The law underscores US support for closer ties between Greece, Cyprus and Israel based on recently discovered offshore gas deposits.
The US imposed the embargo in 1987 to prevent a potential arms race from harming peace talks with the breakaway Turkish Cypriots of the Mediterranean island. Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup d’état aimed at unification with Greece.
With access to US weapons being barred, Cyprus turned to Russia to purchase Mi-35 attack helicopters, T-80 tanks and Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems.