Pushing US Arms Embargo End, Sen. Menendez Due On Cyprus

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez. (Photo by TNH/ Kostas Bej)

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, a key backer of hopes to end a United States arms embargo on Cyprus, where Turkey keeps a heavily-armed 35,000-strong army on the occupied northern third, will visit the island on April 15.

While it’s not an official visit, he’s scheduled to meet President Nicos Anastasiades and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Christodoulides to talk about the arms embargo as well as unity talks that fell apart in July, 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkey said it wouldn’t remove its army and wanted the right of military intervention.

The island has been split since an unlawful 1974 invasion and the legitimate government, member of the European Union that Turkey wants to join – while still barring Cypriot ships and planes – has been kept from getting additional arms under the embargo.

At the end of March, after meeting Christodoulides who was in Washington, Menendez said that, “We are getting ever closer” to ending an arms embargo preventing the purchase of weapons from the US.

In statement after a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he is a ranking member, Menendez said that, “We are really enthused about the role Cyprus is continuously taking in exercising leadership in the region,” reported Kathimerini.

“I have always had a view of lifting the arms embargo. I think we are getting ever closer and to the credit of the Cypriot government they have taken a series of actions that I think makes that move possible,” he also said.

That’s been said before without result. In January, Christodoulides said the embargo was going to be lifted because the US saw the “added value” of allowing Cyprus to acquire military equipment that would help enhance its capabilities to boost regional security.

The embargo was imposed in 1987, aimed at preventing an arms buildup that would hamper diplomatic efforts to reunify divided Cyprus which has stayed split despite a parade of diplomats and envoys taking a shot at the problem.

Christodoulides said the process to lift the embargo has been set in motion in the U.S. Congress, reflecting a “positive shift” in that Washington no longer views Cyprus solely as an unsettled conflict of ethnic division.