US President Barack Obama has signed the country’s National Defence Authorization Act, which includes an amendment permitting the sale of US-made defensive weapons to Cyprus.
The amendment, co-sponsored by Congressmen David Cicilline and Gus Bilirakis, allows the sale of US defensive weapons on condition that the Secretaries of Defence and State submit a report to Congress assessing the impact of the embargo on Cyprus’ national security and counter-terrorism efforts.
The embargo, in place for decades, bans the export of weapons to the Republic of Cyprus, according to Congressman Cicilline.
Bilirakis, Cicilline and Senator Robert Menendez tabled amendments in the House of Representatives and the Senate pointing out that the embargo is an anachronism which does not reflect the current upgraded relationships between Cyprus and the US, which are allies and strategic partners.
The embargo “fails to reflect the relationship Cyprus and the United States have today as allies and strategic partners in the global war on terror,” Cicilline said in a statement.
Citing unnamed sources, the Cyprus News Agency said following the joint maritime search and rescue exercises between the USA and Cyprus, the US offered to strengthen Cyprus’ port police with offshore vessels.
The Hellenic American Leadership Council Executive Director Endy Zemenides applauded the inclusion of the Cyprus amendment, noting that “this is an important step in the growing strategic partnership between Cyprus and the United States.”
“The re-evaluation of the arms embargo required by this act will hopefully rectify the absurd status quo in which Turkey is allowed to occupy Cyprus with American arms but Cyprus has to look elsewhere to buy defensive weapons. Resolving this will allow Cyprus to step up even further as a front line state in the Western security infrastructure,” he concluded.
The government welcomed the decision.
“It is a particularly important decision, which … proves in practice, the Republic’s geostrategic role, and the importance the USA bestow on this role,” government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said.
A more detailed discussion of the matter will take place this week during US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the island, he said.
Officially, it appears that the US decision to deny export of arms to “any of the armed forces in Cyprus” except the United Nations, has been in place since December 1992.
Despite the ban, the bulk of heavy weapons maintained by the Turkish occupying forces in the north are American made.
Following the 1974 invasion, the Republic could not procure arms from the US or Europe.
Its first acquisitions were from Brazil – armoured recon and armoured fighting vehicles.
In the late 80s France agreed to sell the Republic its first serious hardware in the form of modern battle tanks, anti-tank helicopters, anti-tank missiles, and self-propelled artillery.
In 2003, the US made a huge fuss over two helicopters and four old self-propelled guns, which were demonstrated for the first time in previous year’s independence parade.
The helicopters, used for search and rescue missions, and the artillery were acquired from Greece.
The M-107 175mm self propelled guns, despite their long range – around 30 kilometres – had become obsolete in almost all the countries that used them in the past.
M-107 was first developed in the 1950s and saw extensive combat service in Vietnam.
The Bell UH-1 ‘Huey’ helicopter was one of the most successful ever produced, but with thousands of hours on their frames, the reliability of the two National Guard Hueys was disputed by experts.
Pressure from the US forced the Republic to withdraw the Hueys and the guns.