The US Senate on Thursday voted to lift a decades-old arms embargo against Cyprus and to cut Turkey off the American F-35 fighter jet program if it proceeds with the acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The measures were passed through the National Defense Authorization Act in the 2020 draft budget via an amendment introduced by Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a similar version of which has been introduced by Democratic Congressman David Cicilline to the House, which will vote on defense spending in the next few days.
The amendment uses identical language to the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act for strengthening US energy cooperation with Cyprus, Israel and Greece that was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. However, it also requires Cyprus to continue reforming anti-money laundering legislation and efforts to deny Russian military vessels access to its ports.
The amendment was met with reservations in Nicosia, where President Nicos Anastasiades said that it affects the “independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.”
“I have the impression that the amendment was unfortunate,” Anastasiades was quoted as saying by the Cyprus News Agency.
Menendez hailed the Senate's decision in a statement posted on his website.
“Today, the Senate has shown our partners in Cyprus and around the world that the United States is committed to meeting the eastern Mediterranean’s challenges and opportunities,” said Menendez.
“With Cyprus seeking to deepen its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our national security and economic interest to lift this outdated decades-long arms restrictions that are no longer helping US security objectives. I look forward to continue working with my colleagues to ensure we usher a new era for an eastern Mediterranean architecture rooted in shared security and prosperity,” he added.