New U.S. Congress bill calls for end to arms embargo on Cyprus

Three U.S. congressmen have introduced a new bipartisan bill that supports the growing partnership in the eastern Mediterranean between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus and calls for an end to the arms embargo on Cyprus, Greek daily Ekathimerini reported.

The bill was co-signed by Ted Deutch and David Cicilline from the Democrats and Gus M. Bilirakis from the Republicans. 

It follows a bill introduced by Senators Marco Rubio and Robert Menendez in April to enhance security cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. That bill included increased defence support for Turkey’s neighbours and halting the delivery of 100 U.S. F-35 fighter jets ordered by Turkey if it completes its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system.

In addition to intensifying United States’ involvement in regional energy pursuit in the Eastern Mediterranean, the new bill also aims to improve defence cooperation with the regional states, by authorising security assistance to Greece and lifting an existing embargo on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus. 

Another bill aiming to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus was introduced in April to the U.S. Congress but was not enacted.

The legislation also makes clear that the U.S. Congress will not turn a blind-eye to Turkey’s regional aggression or pursuit of policies that threaten the interests of the United States and its partners, Kathimerini said. 

Cyprus was split in 1974 following a Turkish invasion in the wake of a coup by Greek nationalists aiming for union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots founded a breakaway state on the northern part of the island which is recognised only by Turkey. An arms embargo was imposed on Cyprus in 1987 in order to encourage reunification by preventing an arms race on the divided island.

Turkey rejects the Greek Cypriot administration’s exploitation of the hydrocarbon wealth around the island on the basis that this infringes on Turkish Cypriots’ rights to the island’s resources. Turkey also has territorial claims that overlap with Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).