Nations and Greek organizations around the globe welcomed the US’ lifting of the arms embargo against the nation of Cyprus on Monday while Turkey deplored the action, vowing to “take the necessary counter steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriots.”
Greece welcomed the decision, announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephone call to Cypriot President Anastasiades on Monday afternoon.
In the move, the US government pledges to partially lift the embargo on weapons to the Republic of Cyprus for one year; however, any equipment sold will have to be “non-lethal,” according to State Department sources.
A statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry said “This is an important step in strengthening and deepening cooperation between two friendly countries, but also proof of the recognition of the role played by the Republic of Cyprus as a country that contributes to stability and peace in the region.”
“Greece will continue to work with Cyprus, the United States and countries in the wider region to consolidate security and stability in the region,” it added.
Senator Bob Menendez, of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee, issued a statement saying “I am delighted to see recognition of the importance of our relationship with Cyprus, a reliable strategic partner for our nation. It is in our national security interest to lift these outdated decades-long arms restrictions and deepen our security relationship with the Republic of Cyprus.
“While long overdue, allowing sales of non-lethal security equipment, coupled with the earlier announcement of a U.S. military and education training program, reflects the critical importance of the U.S.-Republic of Cyprus bilateral relationship and the growing importance of the Eastern Mediterranean region to U.S. national security interests.”
A lifetime champion for strengthening ties between the U.S. and the Republic of Cyprus Senator Menendez is the author of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act and the End the Cyprus Embargo Act, which was co-authored by Marco Rubio, and Representatives Gus Bilirakis, David Cicilline, and Ted Deutch.
American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris stated after the news broke that “Secretary Pompeo’s action is a milestone in the US-Cyprus bilateral relationship, one that will have a positive effect on the increasingly integrated Eastern Mediterranean.”
AHEPA Supreme President George G. Horiates also lauded the move, stating in an announcement “We commend the Trump administration for recognizing it is in the best interest of the United States to take this action that further enhances relations between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus,”
“The United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus as a strategic partner, especially in combating terrorism and providing regional stability, and this partial lifting of the prohibition of arms is the next logical step in the relationship’s progression that began with 2018’s Statement of Intent agreement.”
He added, “The importance and significance of this decision by the United States at a time when tensions in the Aegean are escalated cannot be understated.”
Turkey, for its part, expressed indignation at the American decision to lift the embargo, which had been put into effect in 1987 in an effort to prevent an arms race in the Eastern Mediterranean and encourage a peaceful settlement of the political situation on the island between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots.
Turkish officials vowed to take action if the U.S. does not reconsider its decision, according to a written statement issued by the the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
In the statement, released on Monday, Turkey said that the U.S. decision was “poisoning hopes for peace in the eastern Mediterranean, and is “incompatible with the spirit of alliance.”
The Ministry also stated that at this time of what it called “ongoing efforts to reduce tensions in the eastern Mediterranean,” that they expected the U.S. to “reconsider its decision and support existing efforts to establish peace and stability in the region.”
“Otherwise,” the statement said, “Turkey, as a guarantor country, will take the necessary decisive counter steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people, in line with its legal and historical responsibilities.”
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay also panned the U.S. decision, Tweeting that “We as Turkey will continue to take steps to guarantee peace and prosperity against this kind of approach, which will increase the risk of conflict in the region.”
Longtime Florida Representative Gus Bilirakis, had only praise for the decision, saying in a Tweet that “American values and national interests are advanced through a stronger bilateral relationship with Cyprus.”
American values and national interests are advanced through a stronger bilateral relationship with #Cyprus. Today, I am thrilled that @SecPompeo exercised the provisions of the #EastMedAct – which I coauthored – to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus and allow non-lethal aid.
— Gus Bilirakis (@RepGusBilirakis) September 1, 2020
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had Tweeted on Monday after the decision was announced “The Republic of 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 Republic of 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.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 1, 2020
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