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US repeats call for Cyprus to halt visits of Russian navy vessels

File photo: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The United States has said it welcomes Cyprus’ efforts to fight money laundering but continues to urge the government to halt regular navy port calls by Russia.

The statement by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Palmer was in response to a letter by the president of the American Hellenic Institute (AHI) Nick Larigakis.

Both issues were a prerequisite for lifting the 33 year old arms embargo, according to laws signed last December by US President Donald Trump.

The AHI president had sent a letter on April 22 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asking the US administration to remove the arms prohibition on Cyprus.

Larigakis had written to Pompeo requesting him to utilise the authority delegated to him by Trump under two recently enacted laws to waive the limitations placed on the transfer of arms to Cyprus, and further, to remove Cyprus altogether from the list of countries to which arms sales are prohibited under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

In his response Palmer said that the US welcomed Cyprus’ “anti-money laundering measures, which showed important progress in strengthening AML [anti-money laundering] efforts and combatting illicit financial flows”.

But, regarding the visits by Russian navy ships, Palmer said that “the United States continues to urge a halt in Russia’s regular navy port calls to the ROC. There is no doubt these vessels contribute to destabilising actions in Syria.”

Larigakis welcomed the letter’s reaffirmation of the United States’ view of Cyprus as a “valued partner and friend in the Eastern Mediterranean” and assessment that US cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus is at a “historic high.”

But he expressed his disappointment that several of AHI’s points made to remove the arms prohibition were not addressed.

“The letter does not address the issue of removing the Republic of Cyprus from the ITAR list and did not acknowledge AHI’s points related to the issue of access of Russian military vessels to Cypriot ports,” Larigakis said.

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