Turkey’s foreign ministry has condemned a decision by the United States to fully lift the weapons embargo for Cyprus next year.
According to the US State Department on Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has lifted defence trade restrictions for Cyprus for the fiscal year 2023.
In a statement on Saturday, Turkey’s foreign ministry strongly condemned the move and said it would “further strengthen the Greek Cypriot side’s intransigence and negatively affect efforts to resettle the Cyprus issue.”
“It will lead to an arms race on the island, harming peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean,” the statement said, calling on the US to reconsider its decision and to pursue a balanced policy towards the two sides on the island.
In the meantime, both Greece and Cyprus have welcomed the US decision.
Cyprus hailed the decision to lift the arms embargo as a milestone reaffirming increasingly tighter bilateral bonds that serve to bolster stability in the turbulent east Mediterranean region.
Cypriot President, Nicos Anastasiades, tweeted his gratitude to the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, for helping to lift the embargo.
Greece’s Foreign Minister, Nikos Dendias, also welcomed the decision and said it constitutes a “political landmark” in relations between Washington and Nicosia.
“I welcome and express my deep satisfaction for the decision of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding the full lifting of the arms embargo by the US against Cyprus,” Dendias tweeted.
The US first enacted the embargo for Cyprus in 1987 to prevent a potential arms race from harming peace talks with the Mediterranean island nation’s breakaway Turkish Cypriots.
Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece.
Barred access to US weapons, Cyprus turned to Russia to procure Mi-35 attack helicopters, T-80 tanks and Tor-M1 anti-aircraft missile systems.
Now, the US will assess annually whether Cyprus complies with conditions for the embargo lift, including implementing anti-money laundering regulations and denying Russian military vessels access to ports for refuelling and servicing.