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Report Says US Congress Will Lift Cyprus Arms Embargo

Αssociated Press

In this photo taken on Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019, a Turkish, left, and a Turkish Cypriot breakaway flags are seen at a military guard post by a U.N sing inside the U.N buffer zone that divides the Greek Cypriot south and the Turkish Cypriot north, in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA - A 32-year-long arms embargo imposed on Cyprus - but not on Turkish-Cypriots unlawfully occupying the northern third of the island - will be ended with the United States House of Representatives expected to approve it, the Cyprus News Agency said.

The measure will reportedly be voted through as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, following an agreement between Republicans and Democrats on more divisive aspects of the bill, it was said.

The bill “repeals existing restrictions on the United States from transferring and exporting weapons, and defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus,” the report said, after it had been approved by the Senate in the summer.

In October, Turkey, which has occupied the northern third of the island since an unlawful 1974 invasion, keeps a 35,000-strong standing army there and has no arms restrictions as does the legitimate government that is a member of the European Union, tried to stop it.

Turkey wanted American lawmakers to drop a provision in the annual defense authorization bill that would lift the United States’ three-decade arms embargo on Cyprus, reported Al-Monitor at the time.

“The longstanding US policy has purposefully not taken sides among peoples of the island or guarantor states to avoid promoting an arms race that might lead to an undesired or unintended consequences,” Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kilic wrote in a pair of identical letters to the Chairman and top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee: Reps. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

The Senate version of the bill, which passed 86-8 in June, originally contained the provision. The language became part of the House defense bill after an amendment introduced by Reps. David Cicilline, D-R.I., and Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., passed 252-173 in July.

“The Republic of Cyprus has long been a key ally in the fight against terrorism and emerging threats in Europe, but for more than 25 years, this embargo has not reflected the strength and importance of that relationship,” Cicilline said after the House adapted his amendment.

Sen. Bob Menendez, from New Jersey, close to the Greek-American and Cypriot-American communities, initially pushed for the arms embargo to end as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.