US to Lift Arms Embargo on Cyprus After 33 Years

US Secretary of State Pompeo. Credit: US State Department

The United States has moved to end its 33-year-old arms embargo on Cyprus, according to reports coming out of Cyprus and the US on Tuesday.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the surprise announcement in a telephone call to Cypriot President Anastasiades today. The decision is in reference to non-lethal equipment only.

In a statement spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said:

“Secretary Pompeo and President Anastasiades discussed the deepening U.S.-ROC bilateral security relationship. Secretary Pompeo informed President Anastasiades of his decision to waive restrictions temporarily for FY 2021 on the export, re-export, retransfer, and temporary import of non-lethal defense articles and defense services controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation destined for or originating in Cyprus.”

Ortagus added that “The Secretary reaffirmed U.S. support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation, which would benefit all Cypriots as well as the wider region.”

United States officials reportedly stated that this diplomatic decision was not related to recent developments, which include Turkey’s repeated warnings about the use and exploitation of resources in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The State Department hastened to clarify that this move is not linked to Greece, Turkey and the Aegean (crisis), but has to do with the strategic upgrade of cooperation with Cyprus, which, as noted, will work beneficially for both the region as well as for U.S. national security interests.

Cypriot President Anastasiades said in a Twitter post: “During our phone call with @SecPompeo, we both expressed our serious concerns on the volatile situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. We further stressed the importance to ease tensions in the region, in view of #Turkey’s aggressive behavior.

“I welcome the lifting of the #US arms embargo on non-lethal defense articles. A positive development which reinforces further the bilateral security relationship between #Cyprus and the #UnitedStates.

“I also underlined to @SecPompeo the Turkish threats for reopening of Varosha.”