More leaders of Greek-American groups are joining the call for the United States to end an arms embargo for Cyprus, where the legitimate government side is outgunned by a Turkish army on the occupied northern third held since an unlawful 1974 invasion implicitly backed by the US.
In a column for the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, Andy Manatos, President of the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes, Philip Christopher, President of the International Coordinating Committee of Justice for Cyprus (PSEKA) and the Pancyprian Association of America, and Mike Manatos, President of Manatos & Manatos said the embargo should cease.
That comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier sent warships into Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in a bid to keep foreign energy companies from drilling for oil and gas where they are licensed.
Unity talks collapsed in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said they would never remove their army and wanted the right to militarily intervene.
With Turkey buying F-35 fighter jets from the US, there’s also fears they could be used in any conflict with Greece or with Cyprus, which is unable to purchase arms from America, which is arming Turkey with more weapons.
“The very existence of an arms embargo on Cyprus is an example of our government ignoring the law of our land and punishing our relationship with a country that conducts itself as a most dependable ally, Cyprus,” the Diaspora leaders wrote.
While the embargo was aimed at Turkey, they said, it’s hurt Cyprus more and that the idea was to end Turkey’s occupation on Cyprus but failed because it meant that “Turkey could continue to carry American arms onto Cyprus, but all other US arms to that country were embargoed.”
The noted that the Cairman of the House Foreign Affairs Human Rights Subcommittee said, “The United States should lift its outdated arms embargo on Cyprus. There’s no good reason for the United States to deny a tried and true ally like Cyprus essential weaponry for its defense.”
The embargo, they said, was put in place because 44 years ago Turkey used American arms unlawfully against Cyprus in the invasion.
They said Erdogan has an agenda for a “final push for Islamist fundamentalism’s first modern conquest of Western world territory and resources – the northern third of Cyprus. These are hydrocarbons that the Eastern Mediterranean Alliance – Cyprus, Greece and Israel – are working on together to provide safe delivery to Western Europe.”
In June, the American Hellenic Council of California (AHC) asked Congress to lift the embargo in place since 1987, supporting a measure filed by US Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) who has had long and close ties with the Greek and Cypriot-American communities.
He said lifting the ban would show the US supports Cyprus as a democracy and EU member and would serve US security interests in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A joint report of the Department of Defence and the State Department in June 2016 said the arms embargo in Cyprus had “little impact” in the US national security goals and could drive Cyprus toward Russia, a worrying factor, he said.
“As someone who has always cooperated with the Greek and the Greek Cypriot community, I continue to be optimistic that a lasting solution will be reached one day which will bring true and lasting peace,” he said.
“This restriction on the sale of military equipment to Cyprus severely undermines regional peace and stability in the Eastern Mediterranean by constraining Cyprus from protecting its territorial integrity and exclusive economic zone from an expansionist Turkey,” AHC said in a statement.
It urged the Greek-American community and other citizens to lobby lawmakers in Congress to end the embargo.
In April this year, Cyprus’ Defence Minister Savvas Angelides met with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for European and NATO policy, Thomas Goffus and asked for the ban on the sale of US military material to Cyprus to be lifted.
Despite the ban, the bulk of heavy weapons maintained by the Turkish occupying forces in the north are American-made, the Cyprus Mail said, allowing Turkey to skirt the embargo and have heavy weapons at hand.
The embargo was begun to encourage reunification efforts and avoid an arms race on the island but has utterly failed, critics said, as Turkey has gotten around and put an army on the island, largely equipped with arms barred to the Cypriots on the other side.