LEFKOSA, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Top officials of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) slammed a decision by the US on Tuesday to partially lift an arms embargo on Greek Cypriots.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo informed Nicos Anastasiades, the leader of the Southern Greek Cypriot administration, about the partial lifting of the US arms embargo on Southern Cyprus and discussed their “deepening” security relationship.

Speaking to US ambassador to Greek Cyprus Judith Gail Garber by phone, TRNC President Mustafa Akinci said the decision “was not a step in the right direction,” according to a statement from the presidential office.

In the phone conversation initiated by Garber, Akinci stressed that the decision would not encourage the Greek side to reach a comprehensive solution in Cyprus and would not serve peace, but on the contrary would help the Greek side stay away from the negotiation table.

Akinci underlined that it is necessary not to contribute to armament efforts in Cyprus and the Eastern Mediterranean but to facilitate dialogue and reconciliation.

Prime Minister Ersin Tatar in a statement emphasized that lifting the arms embargo will not do anything other than increase the conflict and serve the US in “making money.”

Noting that the decision was wrong, Tatar said the move, which came at a time when Greek provocations in the region were on the rise, did not suit a permanent member of the UN Security Council like the US.

“I condemn the US and invite it to return from this mistake immediately,” he said.

Tatar reiterated that Turkey and the TRNC will never give up their rights.

“What needs to be done is not to increase tensions, but to come to peace by seeing the facts.”

TRNC Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay also decried the US decision.

“It is a disappointment for the stability and peace in the region that the US announced its decision to lift the arms embargo on the Greek Cypriot side on September 1, World Peace Day,” Ozersay said in a statement.

Ozersay emphasized that everyone should think very well what it means to lift the arms embargo, which was put into effect on the grounds of not interrupting efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem.

“In this geography, we witnessed many wrong decisions that were unfair and supported only one of the parties to the dispute. This last decision taken by the US on the arms embargo will be just one of them, but it will not even dissuade us from our struggle for our rights and interests in the region,” he added.

The US announcement came amid markedly strained tensions in the region between Turkey and several nations in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Following the forcible 1963 division of the island of Cyprus by the Greek Cypriots, the Turkish Cypriots suffered under a campaign of ethnic violence.

In 1974, following a coup aimed at Cyprus’s annexation by Greece, Ankara had to intervene as a guarantor power. In 1983, the TRNC was founded.

For many decades, there were talks to resolve the dispute, all of which ended in failure. The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries – Turkey, Greece and the UK – ended in 2017 in Switzerland.

In 2004, the plan of then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for a solution was accepted by the Turkish Cypriots but rejected by the Greek Cypriots in referendums held on both sides of the island.

In a recent report, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that “new ideas” may be needed for settling the issue of the island.

*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara

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