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Lifting of arms embargo sees Cyprus aligning itself with the West

defence minister
Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides

Cyprus is aligning itself with the West as part of a strategic policy following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides said on Monday.

Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides also sought to emphasise that bolstering Cyprus’ defensive capabilities is not directed against anyone.

He was speaking after the US on Friday evening lifted an arms embargo against Cyprus that had been in place since 1987. Turkey and the north have loudly protested the US decision.

Petrides praised the move as historic – explaining that its significance is twofold.

“We must firstly recognise that it’s a political decision which has the immediate impact of fully normalising relations [with the US],” he said, adding that it is also proof of the close cooperation on all levels, not just in defence and security.

He said that it is a strategic policy whose significance has been made clear following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent rounds of sanctions.

As for the military aspect of the decision, Petrides said that the move is necessary for Cyprus as the National Guard is heavily dependent on Russian arms acquired  in the 1990s.

“It’s well known that Cyprus is facing these issues,” he said, referring to the challenge of maintaining its Russia-supplied military fleet.

But he cautioned that replacing the National Guard’s kit will take time, pointing to financial considerations too. He emphasised, however, that Cyprus now has a “significant new choice” from where to purchase arms.

He declined to comment on reports that Cyprus is to spend heavily on arms from France, but praised the close ties shared between the two.

In June, the north’s ‘foreign ministry’ decried Cyprus’ move to purchase six Airbus attack helicopters as it sought to replace 11 Russian gunships which will be sold off to Serbia.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the decision to lift the embargo late on Friday which was welcomed in Cyprus.

“This is a landmark decision, reflecting the burgeoning strategic relationship between the two countries, including in the area of security,” President Nicos Anastasiades said.

Kasoulides reflected this and said the lifting of the embargo was a positive development.

In 2020 it was announced that the US would partially lift the embargo, on conditions, with the decision to be reviewed annually.

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