It’s time to lift the arms embargo on Cyprus

9 May 2019
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The United States has a prime opportunity to thwart the designs of Russia, China, and Turkey in the Middle East. At the same time, it can strengthen a bilateral relationship with a democratic, European ally and enhance our defense supply base, as well. This can all be accomplished by taking one relatively simple step: Lift the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus.

That Cyprus is under embargo is a head-scratcher in the first place. The country is a member of the European Union (EU). It has enjoyed good relations with the United States and is eager to strengthen them further.

Since 1974, the Cypriot government has controlled two-thirds of the island, with the northern one-third occupied by Ankara-backed Turkish Cypriots. Tensions have escalated recently after Cyprus also recently discovered large quantities of natural gas in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off its southern coast. The government has sought to develop these resources, but Ankara is encumbering those efforts. In fact, Ankara has worked to exploit energy resources in Cyprus’ EEZ, dispatching drilling ships to conduct assessments in Cypriot waters well beyond Ankara’s sovereignty. Turkish Naval vessels also stopped an Italian oil company drilling ship licensed by the government, in a clear attempt to prevent Cyprus from operating in its own EEZ.

The EU hasn’t done much to help. European Council President Donald Tusk expressed “serious concerns” and stated that the “European Union stands united behind the Republic of Cyprus regarding its right to explore and exploit its natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone.”

That’s all well and good, but don’t expect much action from the EU. The U.S., by contrast, appears more inclined to step up.

Washington reportedly sent the USS Donald Cook to escort a Cyprus-approved surveying vessel. Not surprisingly, the Turkish Navy did not intervene…

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