The partial lifting of an American arms embargo on the legitimate government of Cyprus after 33 years – coming as Turkey, which occupies the northern third of the island is stoking provocations with Greece – has undermined hopes of reunifying the island, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu said.
“Though this decision is limited to light arms, according to the U.S., we told Washington that it marked a step in the wrong direction. In return, we said that Turkey would also increase its aid to Turkish Cypriots, which would cause tensions,” Çavusoglu told the pro-government Daily Sabah in an interview.
Turkey keeps a 35,000-strong army on the occupied side and the last round of reunification talks fell apart in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci said it would stay there and they wanted the right of further military intervention.
Çavusoglu said Cyprus has been able to buy arms from other countries and that the US move would just drive Turkey for further arm itself on the occupied side in what could be a weapons build-up the embargo was designed to prevent.
“Intentionally or not, the timing of this situation is improper,” he underlined.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Greek Cypriot leader Nicos Anastasiades about the decision.
Cyprus will now be able to gain the export, re-export, retransfer and import of non-lethal defense articles and services for the upcoming fiscal year that begins in October.
Turkey has been drilling in the waters of Cyprus, a member of the European Union that Turkey has been trying to join since 2005 while refusing to recognize Cyprus and barring its ships and planes from entering.
That led to EU to impose soft sanctions and now mulling a harder line over Turkey sending an energy research vessel and warships off the Greek island of Kastellorizo, claiming parts of Greece's Continental Shelf.
That was done under a deal with Libya dividing the seas between them, unrecognized by any other country, and Greece countering with similar agreements with Italy in the Ionian and Egypt in the East Mediterranean.