Washington.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
U.S. Senate voted to lift the decades-old arms restrictions against the Republic of Cyprus, by adopting an amendment introduced by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, in the final FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (S 1790) approved on Thursday.
Legislation “S 1790” also determines that by obtaining S-400 Russian missiles Turkey will not be allowed to receive F-35 fighters or participate in the F-35 production program. In addition, the bill asks the President of the United States “to
fully implement the Countering Russian influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–44; 131 Stat. 886) by imposing and applying sanctions under section 235 of that Act (22 U.S.C. 9529) with respect to any individual or entity determined to have engaged in such significant transaction as if such person were a sanctioned person for purposes of such section.”
A similar amendment has been introduced to the House version of the NDAA bill, by Democratic Congressman David Cicilline. The House of Representatives will vote on the bill in few days.
It should be pointed out that the lifting of the embargo involves only U.S. military articles and military services requested by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and not transfers on Cypriot soil of American made equipment for the Turkish Army, the “Turkish Cypriot Forces” or ELDYK.
The amendment passed by the Senate uses identical language to the East-Med Act bill that was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, requiring the Cypriot to continue the reforms on the anti-money laundering regulations and continue efforts to deny access to its ports to Russian military vessels. But it allows the President of the United Stated to waive this requirement for one economic year, if it’s to the interest of the United States.
In a statement following the adoption of the amendment, Senator Menendez made the following statement:
“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its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our national security and economic interest to lift this outdated decades-long arms restrictions that are no longer helping U.S. security objectives.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.”
The amendment adopted by the U.S. Senate states that it is the sense of the Senate that:
“(1) allowing for the export, re-export or transfer of arms subject to the United States Munitions List (part 121 of title 22, Code of Federal Regulations) to the Republic of Cyprus would advance United States security interests in Europe by helping to reduce the dependence of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus on other countries, including countries that pose challenges to United States interests around the world, for defense-related materiel;
and (2) it is in the interest of the United States: (A) to continue to support United Nations- facilitated efforts toward a comprehensive solution to the division of Cyprus; and (B) for the Republic of Cyprus to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. “
It also states that “beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall not apply a policy of denial for exports, re-exports, or transfers of defense articles and defense services destined for or originating in the Republic of Cyprus if— (A) the request is made by or on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus; and (B) the end-user of such defense articles or defense services is the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.”
As far as the condition it sets, the amendment states the following:
“The policy of denial for exports, re-exports, or transfers of defense articles on the United States Munitions List to the Republic of Cyprus shall remain in place unless the President determines and certifies to the appropriate congressional committees not less than annually that— (A) the Government of the Republic of Cyprus is continuing to cooperate with the United States Government in efforts to implement reforms on anti-money laundering regulations and financial regulatory over-sight; and (B) the Government of the Republic of Cyprus has made and is continuing to take the steps necessary to deny Russian military vessels access to ports for refueling and servicing.”