Political parties on Wednesday welcomed the submission of a bipartisan bill to the US Congress that could see Washington’s decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus finally lifted.
While the more hardline parties, Diko and Solidarity, issued statements calling the move “extremely important”, ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou cautioned that it was not a matter of an opportunity to buy more weapons. However, the bill, if passed, would be a “political tool” for a solution to the Cyprus issue, he said.
There has yet to be a response from the government on the likely lifting of the embargo.
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 found a way to circumvent the arms embargo by placing tens of thousands of Turkish troops armed with American weapons in the north. The embargo also forced Cyprus to purchase weapons from other nations, mainly Russia, whose influence in the region the US and other Western powers now seek to curb.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again. Cyprus is orienting to the West and the presence of the US Secretary of State at the recent tripartite meeting between Cyprus, Greece and Israel is the result of that,” said Neophytou.
“I also have the view that for Cyprus it’s not weapons that we need. With the embargo lifted, will we solve the Cyprus problem with weapons? There are political tools for the solution of the Cyprus problem and I consider America and Congress as the most important tool in the direction of a solution to the Cyprus problem. It is of great political importance.”
Diko said the move would contribute to the “upgrading of the geostrategic importance of Cyprus” in the region and strengthen energy security in the Eastern Mediterranean. “This development shows that the Republic of Cyprus has a comparative advantage and by taking advantage of it, it can upgrade its role in the region and strengthen its struggle for vindication,” the party said.
The Solidarity Party on the other hand spoke of buying US weapons and strengthening the National Guard and in turn the country. “If the Republic of Cyprus decides to acquire US weapons systems, it should take seriously into account the needs of the National Guard and the views of experts,” the party said.
US Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who along with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, introduced a bipartisan bill seeking to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus, will be visiting the island next week.
CNA has learned that Menendez will arrive to Cyprus on April 15 in the afternoon. Although his visit will be private, he is expected to hold meetings on April 16 with President Nicos Anastasiades and with the Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides.