American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) welcomed the State Department’s announcement today that it would lift the U.S. arms export restriction of non-lethal defense equipment and services to the Republic of Cyprus for a full year.  

This decision was taken pursuant to 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 fundamental next step in creating ever stronger bonds among key democratic countries, and advocated for steps to make the Republic of Cyprus a full strategic partner of the United States, Greece, and Israel. The legislation prioritized lifting the outdated arms embargo on Cyprus.

“Secretary Pompeo's action is a milestone in the U.S.-Cyprus bilateral relationship, one that will have a positive effect on the increasingly integrated Eastern Mediterranean,” said AJC CEO David Harris, who has been an outspoken advocate for advancing U.S., Cyprus, Greece, and Israel ties for more than three decades. “Given Cyprus’ strategic location and key diplomatic ties in the region, the U.S. 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.”

“Since 2014, when Vice President 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 U.S. relationship with Cyprus.  It also signals that Ankara is no longer being given a veto over the bilateral relationship between Washington and Nicosia.”

For the past seven years, AJC and HALC have advocated for a more comprehensive U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean. The two groups collaborated on the creation of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance caucus in Washington, as well as on multiple policy initiatives in the region.

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