US partially lifts arms embargo on Cyprus

The US announced on Tuesday that it would lift for one year its three-decade-old arms embargo on Cyprus to allow "non-lethal" military goods to be sold to the Mediterranean island, AFP reported. The move drew an immediate rebuke from Turkey The Turkish foreign ministry said the US move "poisons the peace and stability environment in the region" and does "not comply with the spirit of alliance" between the US and Turkey.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades of the change in a phone call. He also "reaffirmed US support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island". The US imposed the arms embargo in 1987, in the hope that it could encourage the reunification of the island, about one-third of which is controlled by Turkey since a 1974 invasion. But the embargo was counter-productive, simply pushing the Cypriot government to create alliances with other countries without making progress on reunification.

The announcement came amid a surge in tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece over maritime borders and gas drilling rights, which also involves Athens-allied Cyprus. Both Greece and Turkey staged naval drills in the area to assert their sovereign claims, and the European Union warned Ankara Friday to pull back or face EU sanctions.

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