Already facing a relentless assault from Russia, Israel, France and Greece, Turkey is now facing the wrath of the United States itself. Washington has decided to partially lift the decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, one of the biggest victims of Turkish expansionism and belligerence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Ankara, which had violently partitioned Cyprus in 1974, is responsible for most Cyrpus’ woes today.
The US State Department has disclosed that from October 1, the United States will remove the embargo for one year on sale or transfer of “non-lethal defence articles and defence services”, which was imposed in 1987 with the hope that it would help reunify the island country of Cyprus.
The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo himself informed Republic of Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades if the latest US decision over a telephone conversation. In fact, State Department spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus said that Pompeo has also reiterated “US support for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island.”
The latest move to partially lift the arms embargo on the Cyprus government is a past of American efforts to empower the Eastern Mediterranean country militarily. Even in the month of July, the US had said that it was planning to conduct military training with Cypus for the first time, notwithstanding Turkish objections.
On his part, Anastasiades asserted that the “positive” development “reinforce[d] the bilateral security relationship” between the US and Cyprus.
The US decision to end the arms embargo on Cyprus comes as a bolt from the blue for Turkey. Unsurprisingly, Ankara has suffered a meltdown over the partial lifting of the US arms embargo on Cyprus. Turkish Foreign Ministry said, “It poisons the peace and stability environment in the region.”
Turkey’s Defence Minister, Hulusi Akar has also issued subtle threats, following the latest US move on Cyprus. Aksar said, “This will bring conflict, not peace,” and also warned against “disrupting the balance” in Southern Cyprus.
Ankara doesn’t want Cyprus to be able to reunify itself through US support because that would marginalise Turkish influence on the Island State of Cyprus. In 1974, Turkey had invaded the Northern third of Cyprus, effectively partitioning the country between the Greek Cypriot Southern part of the country and Turkish Cypriot northern part of the country.
Today, the internationally recognised Cyprus government has de facto control of only the Southern part of the Island nation. On the other hand, Turkey is, of course, the only country that recognises a self-declared, independent Turkish Cypriot State in the Northern part of the Island nation. The self-declared Turkish State serves as a crony of Ankara in Cyprus.
Greece, Turkey and Britain are the guarantor powers of Cyprus, but Turkey keeps making threats of destabilising the island nation. Turkish officials claim that they reserve the right to guarantee the security of the self-declared Turkish State in Northern Cyprus which effectively means that Ankara could try to make further incursions into Cyprus.
Even after the US decision to lift the 33-years old embargo on the Cyprus government, Turkish Foreign Ministry said that if the White House does not reverse course, then Turkey will “take the necessary decisive counter steps to guarantee the security of the Turkish Cypriot people, in line with its legal and historical responsibilities.”
Clearly, the US decision to increase military help to Cyprus is rattling Turkey and cutting the expansionist-Islamist Erdoğan administration to size. Nicosia never really forgot how Turkey divided Cyprus into two parts in 1974 through a bloody invasion.
Moreover, even presently Turkey is locked in tensions with Cyprus in the Eastern Mediterranean, often claiming sovereignty over the waters of Greece and Cyprus. Cyprus wants to stand up to Turkish expansionism, which is why it is also a part of a pipeline deal (EastMed) involving Israel to move gas offshore via Cyprus to Greece and Europe. The 1,900-kilometer gas pipeline project connecting Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean basin gas fields militates against Turkish expansionism in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has been antagonising the Western world, including the US with controversial moves like invasion into Syria and Libya, as well as conversion of the ancient Roman Cathedral- Hagia Sophia into a Mosque. Countries have come to realise that the best way to keep Turkey in check is to weaponise its enemies in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In fact, India has also made it a point to enhance high-level interaction with Turkey’s enemies- Armenia and Cyprus with PM Modi and Foreign Minister Dr. Jaishankar speaking with their Armenian and Cypriot counterparts time and again over the recent past amidst growing Indo-Turkish hostility.
The US seems to be following the same policy now to rein in Erdoğan by empowering his enemies right in Turkey’s backyard.