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US Congress asks state department and Pentagon to submit report on US arms embargo on Cyprus

A provision regarding US-Cyprus security relations and the US arms embargo on Cyprus, has been included in the $717bn defence bill signed earlier this week by US President Trump.

The same bill includes an amendment preventing sales to Turkey of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets.

The bill foresees that not later than 180 days after the date of its enactment, the secretary of defence and the secretary of state shall jointly submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on the security relationship between the US and Cyprus.

In 1987, the US placed restrictions on the transfer of arms and defensive material to Cyprus in an attempt to encourage reunification efforts and avoid an arms race on the island.  Turkey has found a way to circumvent the arms embargo by placing tens of thousands of Turkish troops armed with American weapons in the northern part of Cyprus.  The arms embargo has forced the Republic of Cyprus to purchase weapons from other nations.

The report is to include a description of ongoing military and security cooperation between the US and the Republic, and also a discussion of potential steps for enhancing the bilateral security relationship involving steps to enhance the military and security capabilities of the Republic of Cyprus.

It is also to include and analysis of the effectiveness of the US arms embargo policy to deny applications for licences and other approvals for the export of defence articles and defence services to the armed forces of Cyprus and the impact of this policy on bilateral security relations and the ability of the US and its partners to achieve shared security objectives in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The report must also include an analysis of the extent to which such US policy is consistent with Washington’s overall security and policy objectives in the region, and an assessment of the potential impact of lifting such US policies when it comes to their interests as it relates to Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean.

“The passage of Section 1277 in the NDAA is a key milestone for one of HALC’s top legislative priorities: the lifting of the Cyprus Arms Embargo” said Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) Endy Zemenides.

“This provision in the NDAA brings us one step closer to lifting the counterproductive arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus and achieving the strategic upgrade of Cyprus that has been declared as a goal of the Trump Administration by Assistant Secretary of State Wes Mitchell,” he added.
Zemenides stressed that Cyprus had established itself as a frontline state for Western security interests and a critical partner in a turbulent Eastern Mediterranean.

“For far too long, the United States has granted Turkey a de facto veto over a closer strategic relationship with the Republic of Cyprus. The NDAA brings us one step closer to a better policy”.

Robert Menendez, top Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the one to introduce the bill at the Senate to end the Cyprus arms embargo. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat.

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