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Turkey slams US easing of arms embargo on Cyprus

Washington imposed an arms embargo on the island in 1987 [Getty]

Date of publication: 2 September, 2020

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Ankara said the move will hinder hopes for 'peace and stability' in the tense eastern Mediterranean.
The US announced on Tuesday it would ease a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, angering Turkey.

Washington will allow the sale of "non-lethal defence articles and defence services" to Cyprus for one year starting on 1 October, the State Department said in a statement.

Speaking to Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reitirated Washington's "support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island".

The US initially imposed an arms embargo on Cyprus in 1987, hoping to encourage the reunification of the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state recognised only by Ankara since its declaration in 1983.

The island has been effectively partitioned since 1974, when Turkish forces invaded following an Athens-engineered coup seeking to unify the island with Greece.

The easing of the embargo "poisons the peace and stability environment in the region", the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

If Washington does not reverse the move, Turkey will "take the necessary decisive counter steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people, in line with its legal and historical responsibilities".

Turkey is a guarantor power in Cyprus alongside the United Kingdom and Greece.

In June, the US said it plans to launch military training with Cyprus.

The decision comes amid heightened tensions in the eastern Mediterranean region beween Turkey and its longtime rival, Greece.

Ankara has in recent weeks resumed gas and oil exploration activities in waters claimed by Athens. Turkey disputes the delineation of maritime borders in the region.

Both Greece and Turkey have staged naval drills in the area to assert their claims.

The European Union has threatened sanctions against Turkey if it refuses to stop military and energy exploration activities in the disputed waters. The EU counts Cyprus and Greece among its members.

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