Turkey condemned the U.S. for easing a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, saying the move could fuel already heightened tensions over territorial disputes in the energy-rich eastern Mediterranean.
The Foreign Ministry urged Washington to reverse course, saying the decision “poisoned the atmosphere of peace and stability in the region and violated the spirit of the alliance” between them.
“Otherwise, Turkey will decisively take reciprocal steps necessary to guarantee the safety of the Turkish Cypriot people,” the ministry said.
Turkish forces captured the northern third of Cyprus in 1974, following a coup attempt in which a military junta in Athens sought to unite Cyprus with Greece. The embargo was imposed in 1987 to prevent an arms race and give diplomacy a chance to try to reunify the divided island. But Congressional opponents called it outdated and counterproductive to U.S. security objectives as Cyprus seeks to deepen its strategic partnership with the U.S.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced on Twitter that the embargo had been eased.
The U.S. move comes as the EU considers further sanctions against Turkey over its energy exploration in contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean, where Israel, Cyprus and Egypt have discovered substantial reserves of natural gas in recent years. Conflicting interpretations of maritime boundaries and the feud between Turkey and Cyprus over offshore gas reserves around the island have fueled strains that European diplomats are trying to ease.
EU Prepares Turkey Sanctions in Case Diplomatic Moves Fail
The Republic of Cyprus officially has sovereignty over the entire island, though in effect it remains divided. The Turkish Cypriot minority’s self-proclaimed state in the north, recognized only by Ankara, also claims rights to any energy resources discovered off its coast.
EU Backs Greece, Cyprus
The EU is drawing up a list of possible sanctions against Turkey that might be discussed at a meeting of the bloc’s leaders later this month if there isn’t diplomatic progress toward resolving its disagreements with Greece and Cyprus, the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week.
Selcan Hacaoglu and Sotiris Nikas, Bloomberg News.