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AHI Responds to Recent Call to Remove Arms Prohibition on Cyprus

The National Herald

American Hellenic Institute President Nick Larigakis at an event last year. (Photo: Courtesy of the American Hellenic Institute)

WASHINGTON, DC – The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) issued the following statement on August 3 concerning the call to lift the arms prohibition on Cyprus:

 A July 28, 2020 commentary in The National Interest by Michael Rubin titled “Donald Trump Should Lift the Arms Embargo on Cyprus Now” is the latest call for lifting the arms prohibition on the Republic of Cyprus – a policy priority of which AHI has been at the forefront.

When the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act (East Med Act) became law, AHI published a White Paper which explained why the provisions in the FY20 NDAA and the East Med Act which refer to the prohibition on sales of U.S. defense articles/services to the Republic of Cyprus mandate that the arms prohibition remain in in place. (The White Paper was necessary because several reports indicated the arms prohibition had been lifted with the enactment of both Acts.) Although, the Acts’ provisions remove the statutory prohibition, they direct the Secretary of State to retain Cyprus on the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR), as it has been since 1987, unless Cyprus satisfies two conditions (the Cyprus ITAR Conditions). The Cyprus ITAR Conditions are:

1.      that it continues to cooperate with the U.S. in implementing anti-money laundering regulations and financial regulatory oversight, and

2.      it denies port facilities in Cyprus to Russian military vessels.

In April 2020, AHI President Nick Larigakis wrote to Secretary Pompeo requesting him to utilize the authority delegated to him by President Donald Trump under two recently enacted laws to waive the limitations placed on the transfer of arms to the Republic of Cyprus, and further, to remove the Republic of Cyprus altogether from the list of countries to which arms sales are prohibited under ITAR. 

“Because of the Cyprus ITAR Conditions, the sales of U.S. defense article/services to the Republic of Cyprus are still prohibited,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “As the State Department continues with its review of ways to deepen security cooperation with the Republic of Cyprus, AHI will continue to work with the State Department to reach an understanding that it is in U.S. interests to remove the Republic of Cyprus from the ITAR list altogether, especially because the United States values Cyprus as a strategic partner.”

The AHI White Paper, Prohibition on sales of U.S. defense articles/services to the Republic of Cyprus – National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of Fiscal Year 2020

Additional Background, is available online: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/59bbffe14c326d363fa7659c/t/5dfd4ea8da91216a5bfbb394/1576881834984/FINAL+NDAA+PDF.pdf.

In addition to the April 2020 letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, AHI has communicated extensively with State Department officials and congressional staff on the issue of lifting the prohibition.

  • In June 2019, AHI President Nick Larigakis and U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) authored an op-ed published in The Hill titled, “State Department Need Not be at Odds with Itself on Republic of Cyprus/ITAR Policy” detailing how the State Department’s response to a congressional letter on the topic placed the department at odds with itself.
  • In August 2018, AHI published an Issue Brief which introduced the policy issue  on the prohibition and explained that the State Department had the authority to remove the prohibition as an administrative matter. It also explained why Cyprus should never have been placed on the ITAR at all. 

East Med Act Incident Reports Required by Law

Provisions in the East Med Act call for the issuance of two separate reports by the Administration no later than 90 days after the Act became law - one that provides a listing of incidents of interference by other countries of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus since January 1, 2017; and another that provides a listing of incidents of interference by other countries of Greece’s airspace since January 1, 2017. The reports are to be provided to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

“Turkey’s illegal activities and violations of Greece’s airspace and the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus have escalated during the past year,” Larigakis said. “We call on the relevant Administration officials to issue the reports to Congress, if they have not already done so, as required by law, so a formal accounting of incidents is documented and presented to the public for view.”