Ankara has warned Washington that an impending lift of a US arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus is a “dangerous escalation” that would hamper efforts to reach a peace settlement on the divided island.
A press release by the Turkish Foreign Ministry was issued on Tuesday after the US Senate approved and forwarded to the White House the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2020, passed by the House a week earlier and worth $738 billion.
The NDAA has angered Ankara as the bill includes provisions for leaving Turkey out of the F-35 stealth fighter programme due to Turkish acquisition of Russian missiles S-400 as well as sanctions on a TurkStream pipeline project.
Turkey says the NDAA for 2020 includes “hostile” provisions towards Turkey.
'Members of Congress looking to settle internal political scores and acting under the influence of anti-Turkish circles, continue harming the vision to improve our relations with the US'
“Members of Congress looking to settle internal political scores and acting under the influence of anti-Turkish circles, continue harming the vision to improve our relations with the US,” the foreign ministry said.
The NDAA bill also allows for the conditional lifting of the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus by requesting that the US President certify at least once a year that the island nation meets certain conditions.
“Furthermore, attempts to lift the US arms embargo on the Cyprus Island in favor of the Greek Cypriot Administration will have no outcome other than hampering efforts towards a settlement on the Island and creating a dangerous escalation,” the ministry added.
Although an arms embargo was imposed on Cyprus and Turkey in 1974, the Carter administration lifted the ban on Turkey years later in a move to improve relations with Ankara. But US policy towards the Republic of Cyprus continued to spell out a denial for exports, re-exports, and transfers of defence articles listed on the United States Munitions List.
While the actual embargo shall remain in place, the defence bill gives leeway to the US President to make an exception by certifying that Cyprus is meeting Washington’s criteria on money laundering regulations as well as thwarting the Russian threat.
Cyprus says lift good for stability
The Republic of Cyprus maintains that the island nation has an important role to play in helping provide stability in the region.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides has said previously that the United States recognize that removing the weapons ban would bring “added value” in Cyprus’ efforts towards stability and security in the wider region.
A total of 86 senators on Tuesday voted for the mammoth defence bill, which was sent to President Trump’s desk where he can sign it into law.