American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) welcomed the State Department’s announcement Tuesday that it would lift the US arms export restriction of non-lethal defense equipment and services to Cyprus for a full year.
The decision follows the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 – a joint legislative priority of AJC and HALC last year – which was co-authored by Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio, and Representatives Gus Bilirakis, David Cicilline, and Ted Deutch.
AJC and HALC championed the Eastern Med Act from its inception as a key step in creating ever stronger bonds among key democratic countries, and advocated for steps to make Cyprus a full strategic partner of the US, Greece, and Israel. The legislation prioritized lifting the outdated arms embargo on Cyprus.
“Secretary Pompeo’s action is a milestone in the US-Cyprus bilateral relationship, one that will have a positive effect on the increasingly integrated Eastern Mediterranean,” said AJC CEO David Harris.
“Given Cyprus’ strategic location and key diplomatic ties in the region, the US needed to have a substantive security relationship with Nicosia. Today’s move, coupled with the inclusion of Cyprus in the International Military Education and Training Program, reinforces a critical relationship with a sister democracy in a strategically vital region,” he said.
“Since 2014, when Vice President [Joe] Biden declared that Cyprus is a ‘strategic partner’ of the United States, we have been looking forward to this development,” added HALC executive director Endy Zemenides. “Thanks to the East Med Act, the State Department was given the impetus to take a significant leap forward in the US relationship with Cyprus. It also signals that Ankara is no longer being given a veto over the bilateral relationship between Washington and Nicosia,” he said.
AJC and HALC have collaborated on the creation of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance caucus in Washington, as well as on multiple policy initiatives in the region.