HALC has promoted the issue for months with members of Congress; it was also raised by the Cypriot Government to the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
WASHINGTON – (GreekNewsOnline)
U.S. Congressman David N. Cicilline (RI-01) introduced on Friday the End the Cyprus Arms Embargo Act.
“The Republic of Cyprus is a critical strategic partner that has provided key support for the fight against ISIS in the Eastern Mediterranean,” said Cicilline, who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “The embargo on the sale and transfer of military weapons to Cyprus, however, is outdated and an impediment to strengthening our relationship even further. It’s important that we lift this ban as soon as possible.”
Cicilline’s legislation would repeal the provisions which prohibit the export and transfer of arms to the Republic of Cyprus. It would strengthen the security of a key partner in the region, enhance cooperation between the U.S. and Cyprus, and provide increased security to our European partners. By ensuring a strong international coalition, the U.S. would be able to better combat the threat posed by the Islamic State, and guard against the increased influence of our nation’s adversaries in the region.
The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) and its Executive Director Endy Zemenides has worked for months with members of Congress, to promote this legislation. In a statement to the “Greek News” he said:
“It is time for the US to give substance the ‘strategic partnership’ declared by Vice President Biden in 2014. Lifting the arms embargo would be a good first step to cementing Cyprus’ status as a front line state for Western security interests.”
On Wednesday, Cypriot Defence Minister Savvas Angelides has asked US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy Thomas Goffus on the possibility of lifting the US embargo on the sale of military material during a meeting they had in Nicosia, noting the importance this will play in enhancing bilateral relations. According to a Cypriot Defense Ministry Press Release, the U.S. official promised to convey the arguments of the Cypriot minister regarding this issue upon his return to Washington.
“During the meeting there was an exchange of views on the regional role of Cyprus and the cooperation Cyprus has been developing with countries which are allies of the United States in the region and how it can contribute in enhancing bilateral relations and combating terrorism,” the Cypriot Defense Ministry press release said.
Angelides expressed “our side’s will to further grow and deepen bilateral relations and cooperation in the areas of defense and security with the US.”
The Cypriot minister “assured the Pentagon official about Cyprus’ support in the fight the international coalition under the United States against terrorism while he also referred on the provocations against Cyprus by Turkey a NATO member state.”
The two men also discussed energy planning the Goffus expressed support for the Republic of Cyprus’ plans within its Exclusive Economic Zone.
In 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and the island was divided into the area controlled by the Republic of Cyprus and the northern 37 percent of the island occupied by Turkey. The northern area of Cyprus, which is not recognized by any other country except Turkey, is occupied by more than 30,000 Turkish troops and settlers from mainland Turkey. Prior to the invasion, Greek and Turkish Cypriots lived together in a unified Cyprus.
In 1987, the U.S. placed restrictions on the transfer of arms and defensive articles to Cyprus in an attempt to encourage reunification efforts and to avoid an arms race on the island. Instead, the arms embargo has had no impact on the reunification process and has unnecessarily handicapped one of our strongest allies in the Eastern Mediterranean. Meanwhile, Turkey has found a way to circumvent the arms embargo by placing tens of thousands of Turkish troops armed with American weapons in the northern region of Cyprus. The arms embargo has forced the Republic of Cyprus to purchase weapons from nations hostile to American interests like Russia.
At the beginning of the second Gulf War, Cyprus allowed U.S. warplanes to land and refuel after Turkey refused to grant the U.S permission to land in Turkey. As a member of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Cyprus has been key partner in combating global terrorism. Coalition air strikes against ISIS by European partners have been launched from bases in Cyprus. U.S. energy exploration in Cyprus has strengthened economic ties between our two countries, and provided key alternatives to Russian energy to U.S. allies.