US Congress ends arms embargo on Cyprus

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US Congress

The US Congress voted on Tuesday to lift a decades-old arms embargo on South Cyprus, defying Turkey at a time of renewed tensions.

The Senate approved the measure as part of a massive defense spending bill that passed 86 to eight and already went through the House of Representatives, with President Donald Trump likely to sign it.

The bill allows US exports to South Cyprus in relation to the supply of defense-related material and notes that it is in the interest of the US to continue supporting UN-facilitated efforts for a comprehensive settlement to end the division of Cyprus.

It also says that it is in the interest of the US that the Republic of Cyprus becomes part of the “Partnership for Peace” NATO program.

The provision to lift the embargo will enter immediately into force once the bill passes.

The United States imposed an embargo in 1987.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez and Republican Senator Marco Rubio spearheaded the effort, saying they also wanted to encourage growing cooperation between Cyprus, Greece, and Israel.

“With Cyprus seeking to deepen its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our national security and economic interest to lift these outdated decades-long arms restrictions that are no longer helping US security objectives,” Menendez said after initial approval of the lifting of the embargo.

Under the new act, the United States will still restrict certain sensitive technologies to Cyprus unless the US certifies that the island is denying Russia military vessel port access for refueling and servicing.

Representatives of Turkey had lobbied against the lifting of the embargo, arguing that Congress was giving the green light to an arms race.

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