A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives aims to fully lift the arms sales embargo on the Republic of Cyprus by eliminating its yearly renewal. Titled “The End of the Cyprus Embargo Act,” the bill was presented by Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Chris Papas, Dina Titus, and Nicole Malliotakis.

Under current legislation, the President of the United States has designated the State Department to annually certify Cyprus’s compliance with all conditions outlined in the “East Med Act” for the authorization of the yearly suspension of the embargo. If passed, the new bill would remove the requirement for annual certification, thus, automatically renewing the lifting of the embargo every five years.

Lawmakers argue that this move is a logical progression, following the complete lifting of the embargo and Cyprus’s fulfillment of its obligations. They believe this longer-term approach will facilitate better coordination between Washington and Nicosia in security matters, enabling more strategic planning and cooperation.

According to the bill, Congress acknowledges Cyprus’s compliance with the terms outlined in the “East Med Act” of 2019 concerning defense contracts. Furthermore, it highlights that extending the lifting of the embargo serves the security interests of the United States in Europe by reducing Cyprus’s reliance on defense items from countries challenging U.S. interests.

Consequently, it is deemed in the U.S. interest to:

  • Continue backing United Nations-facilitated efforts for a comprehensive resolution to the division of Cyprus.
  • Enhance the strategic partnership and security relationship between the United States and the Republic of Cyprus as provided for in the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019;
  • Bolster the cooperation between the United States Armed Forces and the National Guard of the Republic of Cyprus and to enhance existing programs such as the joint training between the National Guards of the Republic of Cyprus and the State of New Jersey under the auspices of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program.
  • Include the Republic of Cyprus in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.

Provisions of the Bill

The bill stipulates that starting from its enactment, the U.S. Secretary of State cannot reject defense equipment and services exports, re-exports, or transfers destined for or originating from Cyprus. However, a prerequisite is that the Republic of Cyprus will be the ultimate user of American defense item or services.

Nevertheless, the U.S. government retains the right to refuse arms sales for political reasons grounded in credible concerns about human rights violations. It also grants the President the authority to suspend the law’s provisions for one fiscal year if deemed necessary for U.S. national security interests.

Furthermore, the bill provides the option for the President to terminate the automatic five-year extension of the embargo lift. This option becomes active five years after the bill’s enactment and can be renewed following subsequent five-year periods. However, shortly before the five-year mark, the President must submit a certification to the relevant House and Senate committees (Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees) indicating that the government of Cyprus is no longer cooperating with the U.S. government in:

  • Anti-money laundering and financial regulatory oversight reforms.
  • Denying access to Russian military vessels in ports for refueling and servicing.