Menendez: new era in US-Cyprus relations

Menendez: new era in US-Cyprus relations

By:  Jean Christou
Cyprus Mail

President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday received US Senator Robert Menendez at the presidential palace in Nicosia, a week after announcing that a bipartisan bill seeking to lift the US arms embargo on Cyprus, which has been in place since 1987, had been tabled in Washington.

After the meeting on Tuesday, Menendez told reporters had “an excellent meeting” with Anastasiades, and that he himself has had a long relationship with Cyprus.

“We talked about many important subjects, Easter Mediterranean’s security strategy, energy strategy, Cyprus’ continuous engagement with the United States, questions of our foreign policy in the region, economic questions, the changing dynamics of Cyprus in its banking zone,” Menendez said.

He added that they also had “a very extensive, very positive discussion and I look forward to continue deepening the relation between the United States and Cyprus”.

“I think there is a great moment for Cyprus to find a whole new day in its relationship not only with the United States but with the West.”

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Democrat Menendez of New Jersey, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

In an announcement, the two Senators said what has been termed the ‘Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019’ would “lift the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus, authorise the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Centre to facilitate energy cooperation between the US, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

It would also authorise $3,000,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece, $2,000,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and $2,000,000 for Cyprus.

The bill also seeks to impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, as long as Turkey continues with plans to purchase the S-400 air defence system from the Russian Federation, a purchase that would be sanctionable under US law.

It would also require the US administration to submit to Congress a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as reports on malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region.

The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 would allow the US to fully support the trilateral partnership of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus through energy and defence cooperation initiatives – including by lifting the embargo on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus.

The legislation also seeks to update US strategy in recognition of consequential changes in the Eastern Mediterranean, including the recent discovery of large natural gas fields, “and a deterioration of Turkey’s relationship with the United States and our regional partners.”