The United States will lift a 33-year arms embargo on Cyprus, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday, prompting an angry response from Turkey, according to Reuters.
The island was divided in 1974 following a Turkish intervention triggered by a Greek-inspired coup, resulting in the establishment of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey. Several peacemaking efforts between the two sides of the island have collapsed.
Washington placed restrictions on transferring arms to Cyprus in 1987 in a bid to avoid an arms race on the island and to foster reunification.
“Cyprus is a key partner in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo said on Twitter. “We will waive restrictions on the sale of non-lethal defense articles and services to the Republic of Cyprus for the coming fiscal year.”
The decision comes amid heightening tensions in the eastern Mediterranean between NATO allies Turkey and Greece over claims to potential hydrocarbon resources in the region.
The dispute stems from conflicting views on the extent of the countries’ continental shelves.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said on Twitter that he welcomed the move.
Turkey accused the US of violating the spirit of the alliance between the two countries after the announcement.
“The signing of such a U.S. decision that poisons the atmosphere of peace and stability amid efforts to de-escalate tensions in the eastern Mediterranean is not compatible with the spirit of alliance,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in an emailed statement.
Ankara and Athens both say they are ready to resolve the dispute through dialogue while insisting on upholding their rights. They each recently held military drills in the region, highlighting the potential for the dispute to escalate.