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Turkey slams US decision to lift Cyprus arms embargo

Ankara says Washington's decision to lift an arms embargo in place since 1987 'disregards the equality and balance' on the island
Tensions have been simmering between Greece and Turkey over the small Mediterranean island.
Tensions have been simmering between Greece and Turkey over the small Mediterranean island (AFP/File photo)

Turkey has criticised a US decision to lift a 33-year arms embargo on Cyprus, saying Ankara will take "necessary reciprocal steps" unless Washington reconsiders its decision.

The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that the decision would "adversely affect efforts to resolve the Cyprus issue" and that Ankara expects its Nato ally to "review" it.

The island was divided in 1974 following a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. Turkey recognises the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is not recognised by other countries. Several peacemaking efforts have collapsed.

Washington placed restrictions on the transfer of arms to Cyprus in 1987 to encourage reunification efforts and avoid an arms race on the island.

"In a period in which efforts are being made to reduce tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, the US' signing of such a decision poisons regional peace and stability," it said in a statement.

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"Turkey, as a guarantor country, will take the necessary reciprocal steps in line with its legal and historical responsibility to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people."

The State Department reported earlier on Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades about the decision.

"Cyprus is a key partner in the Eastern Mediterranean," Pompeo said on Twitter. "We will waive restrictions on the sale of non-lethal defence articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus for the coming fiscal year."

The decision comes amid escalating tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between Nato allies Turkey and Greece over claims to potential hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean based on conflicting views on the extent of their continental shelves.

Anastasiades said on Twitter after a phone call with Pompeo that he welcomed the move.

Ankara and Athens both say they are ready to solve the dispute through dialogue, while insisting on upholding their own rights.

They each held military exercises in the region, highlighting the potential for the dispute to escalate. 

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