President Donald Trump will have discretion over a current US arms embargo imposed on Cyprus, as both Senate and House conferees have reached an agreement on the defense budget for next year.
According to foreign media, key lawmakers in Washington expect a vote this week on the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a conditional lift of an arms embargo imposed on Cyprus back in 1987.
The NDAA bill 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.
Current US policy towards the Republic of Cyprus spells out a denial for exports, re-exports, and transfers of defense articles listed on the United States Munitions List.
While the embargo shall remain in place, the defense 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.
Specifically, unless the President cites an exception on national security grounds, the bill calls on congress to confirm with the White House that the Cypriot government continues to cooperate with the US in implementing anti-money laundering reforms and financial regulatory oversight. The bill also requires that the island continue to take the steps to deny Russian military vessels access to ports for refueling and servicing.
During the summer, the House and the Senate passed two separate bills, both including identical language on Cyprus, but failed to reconcile on other priorities between Democrats and Republicans.
A conference to merge the bills into one final version had struggled to find agreement, with split opinions on issues such as the Space Force, funding Trump’s wall on the southern border.
Votes are expected in the House and Senate on Wednesday and perhaps Thursday, with the bill expected to pass both chambers and head to President Trump’s desk for signature.