With pressure from the Diaspora helping suspend the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, the cal is picking up again for the United States to lift an arms embargo on Cyprus – evaded by the Turkish occupiers who have held the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion.
American Hellenic Institute (AHI) President Nick Larigakis said the US prohibition on sales of defense and military technology to Cyprus is “unlawful” and can be removed witout resorting to legislation.
“We contend the State Department has the legal authority to remedy what has been, for years, an unlawful prohibition on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus,”
“We urge the State Department to exercise the requisite political will to get this done. It is in the best interests of the United States for the Republic of Cyprus to look to the United States, and not any other nation, to procure its defense materials,” he added, said Kathimerini.
That came as AHI announced the publication of a five-page briefing on the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), under which the US has banned the sales of US defense articles and services to Cyprus since 1985.
HI said it gave the State Department a memorandum on its position that the embargo could be lifted and forwarded a memorandum to US officials outlining the case and brought it up again in follow-up meetings.
The briefing described the ITAR, analyzed why the prohibition on Cyprus is unlawful, explained how the State Department itself can remove Cyprus from the application of the ITAR prohibition and that going to Congress isn’t needed.
The AHI reiterated the case only days after, in a column in Kathimerini, that 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.
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.
“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.”
They noted that the Chairman 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.