East Med Crisis: Cyprus Welcomes Vs. Turkey Slams the Lifting of US Arms Embargo

Written by | Monday, September 7th, 2020

Cyprus has welcomed the lifting of a 33-year US arms embargo as proof it is a “reliable partner” in the Eastern Mediterranean, as Washington’s ambassador stressed the move was not aimed at Turkey. However, Ankara has urged the US to reconsider lifting the arms embargo against Cyprus, saying it will hurt regional stability. The United States announced the move on Tuesday (2 September), which means that Cyprus would be allowed “non-lethal” military goods to be sold to the Mediterranean island. Turkey has been engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over maritime borders and gas drilling rights.
Hailing the development as a “recognition” of the Mediterranean island’s role, Cypriot government spokesman also said that „it indicates the importance which the US and Cyprus attribute to strengthening their bilateral relations, particularly in defence and security.” According to the US ambassador Judith Garber to Cyprus, the move was not a response to the latest tensions, but part of a regional security relationship, and the decision was not made in response to the most recent developments in the region. “Turkey is a very valued ally of the United States. It is a NATO ally and partner. We value our relationship with Turkey. It is a complicated one. But we do not have transactional relationships in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” she said, exlaining that Washington’s move was about greater security and stability in a volatile region.
Both Turkey and Greece have staged naval drills in the area to assert their sovereign claims to gas resources and exclusive economic zones, and the European Union has repeatedly warned Ankara to pull back or face EU sanctions. The northern third of Cyprus has been controlled by Turkey since a 1974 invasion following a coup aimed at unification with Greece. But the arms embargo imposed by the US in 1987 did not encourage the reunification of the island, as many in Washington tended to believe. Instead, the opponents of the embargo seem to have been proven right in their view that the embargo was counter-productive because it simply pushed the Cypriot government to create alliances with other countries without making progress on reunification. UN-backed peace talks have been mired in stalemate since negotiations collapsed in July 2017.

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