New York. By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Friends of Cyprus in the U.S. Congress, along with Greek American and Jewish American organizations applauded the decision of Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo to waive the restrictions and allow the export of non-lethal defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus. The decision – announced on Monday – is pursuant to the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019, a law that provides a comprehensive recalibration of American diplomatic, military, and economic policy towards the Eastern Mediterranean.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed the Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades of Washington’s decision, in a phone call on Tuesday, September 1st.
“The US looks to the Republic of Cyprus as being an important partner”, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew A. Palmer, He said that it is in the in the interests of the national security of the US to temporary wave the restriction to the direct commercial sale of non-lethal defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus for the fiscal year 2020 – 2021.”
Palmer added that this decision on the waver “is potentially renewable but no decision has been made at this point” on future years.
He underscored that “the US looks to the Republic of Cyprus as being an important partner and makes an important contribution to region peace and security in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“This is a relationship that we are working to develop and grow,” Palmer added.
The US Official however made clear that “this decision does not in any way reflect a change in the US position on a Cyprus settlement.”
“We continue to support a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island in a bi-zonal bi-communal federation which would benefit all the Cypriots as well as the wider region,” he said.
On his part, Mike Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Trade in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs said that “any decisions on capabilities that we will provide to Cyprus will be made on a case by case basis as is the case for all the requests”.
In a read-out on the conversation between the Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and the President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, the State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said that they . “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. 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.”
In a statement, Senator Robert Menendez who authored and introduced EastMed Act in the U.S. Senate said that “I am delighted to see recognition of the importance of our relationship with Cyprus, a reliable strategic partner for our nation. It is in our national security interest to lift these outdated decades-long arms restrictions and deepen our security relationship with the Republic of Cyprus.
“While long overdue, allowing sales of non-lethal security equipment, coupled with the earlier announcement of a U.S. military and education training program, reflects the critical importance of the U.S.-Republic of Cyprus bilateral relationship and the growing importance of the Eastern Mediterranean region to U.S. national security interests.
“I welcome this signal of our commitment towards a mutually beneficial partnership with Cyprus, and look forward to the continued implementation of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act, the foundation of a sustained and durable U.S. policy to this important region of the world.”
Democratic congressman David Cicilline, from Rhode Island, in a message posted on his Twitter account said “I started the effort to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus four years ago because it wasn’t in our interests. Today, the State Department finally lifted it, making America and the eastern Mediterranean more secure.”
Republican congressman from Florida, Gus Bilirakis, in a post on the Twitter said “American values and national interests are advanced through a stronger bilateral relationship with #Cyprus. Today, I am thrilled that @SecPompeo
exercised the provisions of the #EastMedAct – which I coauthored – to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus and allow non-lethal aid.”
The AHEPA with a statement of its Supreme President George Horiates, applauded the Trump administration’s decision.
“We commend the Trump administration for recognizing it is in the best interest of the United States to take this action that further enhances relations between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus,” Supreme President George G. Horiates said. “The United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus as a strategic partner, especially in combating terrorism and providing regional stability, and this partial lifting of the prohibition of arms is the next logical step in the relationship’s progression that began with 2018’s Statement of Intent agreement.”
He added, “The importance and significance of this decision by the United States at a time when tensions in the Aegean are escalated cannot be understated.”
In April, Supreme President Horiates wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting him to exercise his authority granted by Executive Order to waive the limitations placed on the Republic of Cyprus by U.S. law, thus allowing for the transfer of defense articles.
Supreme President Horiates also thanked members of Congress, especially Senator Robert Menendez, for championing the lifting of the arms prohibition on the Republic of Cyprus on Capitol Hill, and he commended the community for its advocacy.
“Together, we are making a difference with our civic engagement,” Horiates said.
AJC – HALC
For the past seven years, American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) have advocated jointly for a more comprehensive U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean; they collaborated on the creation of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance caucus in Washington and they championed the Eastern Med Act from its inception as a fundamental next step in creating ever stronger bonds among key democratic countries, and advocated for steps to make the Republic of Cyprus a full strategic partner of the United States, Greece, and Israel.
“Secretary Pompeo’s action is a milestone in the U.S.-Cyprus bilateral relationship, one that will have a positive effect on the increasingly integrated Eastern Mediterranean,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who has been an outspoken advocate for advancing U.S., Cyprus, Greece, and Israel ties for more than three decades. “Given Cyprus’ strategic location and key diplomatic ties in the region, the U.S. needed to have a substantive security relationship with Nicosia. Today’s move, coupled with the inclusion of Cyprus in the International Military Education and Training Program, reinforces a critical relationship with a sister democracy in a strategically vital region.”
“Since 2014, when Vice President Biden declared that Cyprus is a ‘strategic partner’ of the United States, we have been looking forward to this development,” added HALC Executive Director Endy Zemenides. “Thanks to the East Med Act, the State Department was given the impetus to take a significant leap forward in the U.S. relationship with Cyprus. It also signals that Ankara is no longer being given a veto over the bilateral relationship between Washington and Nicosia.”