US Senate Votes to Lift Arms Embargo on Cyprus

The Senate included a provision to lift the decades-old arms restrictions against the Republic of Cyprus as part of the final FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) approved Thursday.

The lifting of these restrictions is an important part of a broader initiative to reshape the United States’ strategy in the eastern Mediterranean region being spearheaded by by ranking member Bob Menendez (D-N.J).

The provision was passed via an amendment introduced by Menendez. A similar version has been introduced by Democratic Congressman David Cicilline in the House, which will vote on defense spending in the next few days.

The amendment uses identical language to the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act for strengthening the US energy cooperation with Cyprus, Israel and Greece whichwas approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.

“Today, the Senate has shown our partners in Cyprus and around the world that the United States is committed to meeting the eastern Mediterranean’s challenges and opportunities,” said Senator Menendez.

“With Cyprus seeking to deepen its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our national security and economic interest to lift this outdated decades-long arms restrictions that are no longer helping US security objectives. I look forward to continue working with my colleagues to ensure we usher a new era for an eastern Mediterranean architecture rooted in shared security and prosperity,” he concluded.

The amendment also requires Cyprus to continue reforming money-laundering legislation and efforts to deny Russian military vessels access to its ports.

It was met with reservations in Nicosia, where President Nicos Anastasiades said that the amendment affects the “independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.”

“I have the impression that the amendment was unfortunate,” Anastasiades was quoted as saying by the Cyprus News Agency.