“We cannot ignore Turkey’s trajectory under Erdogan… This week’s latest military activity in Syria is further proof that Erdogan is simply not a responsible actor on the world stage,” the official said. US Senator Bob Menendez at Kathimerini. [Reuters]
Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, calls for more action to deepen the multidimensional relationship between Greece and the United States, from defense and security to emerging technologies, economy digital technology, maritime industry and commercial shipping.
The point, conveyed in an interview with Kathimerini, is not only his deep personal belief, but also acts as a message to politicians across the ideological spectrum in the United States as well as Greece, as the two allies of the NATO are both in the pre-election period. : The US midterm elections are scheduled for November while the next Greek parliamentary vote, the conservative prime minister has repeatedly said, will take place in the spring of next year.
The Democratic senator from New Jersey highlights the geostrategic role of the northern Greek port of Alexandroupoli, which he visited last week. And he points to the importance of the growing US military presence in the city, which he describes as a key regional energy hub for the Balkans and beyond.
Menendez further expresses deep concern over reports that Turkey will go ahead with the purchase of a second batch of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems and clarifies that if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to behave in a way that creates problems within the NATO Alliance, he will not support the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey. He also calls on Ankara to end its provocations inside Greek airspace and territorial waters, while speaking out in favor of lifting restrictions on arms transfers to Cyprus.
If Turkey does consider buying additional S-400s, would that impact the prospect of Ankara getting F-16s?
I am deeply concerned by reports that Turkey is considering further purchases of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, a delivery that would constitute another clear violation of US sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. Between the continued adversarial violations of Greece’s airspace and the postponement of Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO accession process, I sincerely hope that Turkey will change course and assume its responsibilities towards the defense alliance by being the constructive partner in the region, we all hope so. Until then, I cannot support the sale or transfer of US F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.
How do you judge President Erdogan‘s behavior in the region?
We cannot ignore Turkey’s trajectory under Erdogan. Today, Turkey’s democratic process has been significantly eroded, religious freedom is under constant pressure, we have seen unwarranted detentions of US Embassy employees, record levels of attacks on independent journalists and a total repression of fundamental rights to freedom of expression. This week’s latest military activity in Syria is further proof that Erdogan is simply not a responsible actor on the world stage. As Russia continues its brutal and unlawful invasion of Ukraine, the Turkish government has the responsibility and the opportunity to unequivocally demonstrate its commitment to NATO and the shared principles and values that underpin this vital partnership.
“I was also impressed with the military upgrades that Greece and the United States invested in to increase port capacity”
Alexandroupoli is rapidly becoming a strategic hub, both in the military field and in the energy sector.
I have long advocated for more energy interdependence and cooperation between Greece, the United States and other regional partners. The 3+1 format has proven to be an essential partnership for regional security and energy security which I believe we should continue to develop. I look forward to launching the 3+1 parliamentary component and following through on the legislation I drafted calling for a new energy hub. I was very happy to visit Alexandroupoli this week and saw the enormous potential the port has for US-Greek and regional cooperation. The Greece-Bulgaria interconnector is also a huge step forward to help secure European energy independence and I hope we can support efforts to take advantage of this connection and attract more European countries, especially in with regard to the Western Balkans. I was also impressed with the military upgrades that Greece and the United States invested in to increase port capacity. Given its geostrategic location, I believe there is much more we can do here to cooperate on the security front as we continue to reflect on the importance of the Mediterranean for global security.
What do you think of the prospects for the US-Greek relationship?
The commercial ties and strong financial relationship between the United States and Greece continue to benefit both our nations. We must continue to increase cooperation on emerging technologies, the digital economy and all aspects of the maritime industry, including port development and commercial shipping. The legislation I drafted and passed – the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act – authorized a new energy hub to help accelerate the region’s move towards renewable energy. Similarly, Congress also passed my US-Greek Defense and Interparliamentary Partnership Act, an act designed to significantly enhance US support for the modernization of the Greek military and foster increased multilateral engagement between Cyprus, Greece , Israel and the United States. Our armed forces – and the armed forces of our partners – must be up to date with the latest tactics and advanced technologies of the future. And I am proud to have led the adoption of the Mutual Defense Cooperation Agreement with Greece last year, which deepened our partnership with Greece. Greece and the United States have a relationship rooted in our shared democratic values that the founding leaders of our nations embraced on the eve of our two independences. It is up to us to pick up the torch and take our turn as stewards of a precious legacy.
What do you think of Turkey’s overflights and gas exploration movements?
Turkey must stop its provocations and incursions into Greek territorial waters and airspace. Full stop.
Where is the Cyprus question, 48 years after the Turkish invasion?
Almost half a century after Turkey invaded Cyprus, Turkish troops continue to illegally occupy the north of the island. This status quo in Cyprus is unacceptable. Turkish activity in Varosha is unacceptable and in direct violation of multiple United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. And human rights violations in Turkey are unacceptable. To this end, the President of Turkey must immediately cease his provocations. I am proud to have been a leader of the Cypriot cause in Washington, where we stand alongside our friends and allies in Nicosia. We remain committed to the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and to a bizonal and bicommunal federation. As American Cypriots join Cypriots around the world in their efforts to unify their homeland, and as they seek to secure an economically prosperous state free from illegal occupation, I will stand with them. With this in mind, as Cyprus seeks to deepen its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our economic and national security interests to lift outdated restrictions on arms sales that no longer contribute to US security objectives by Mediterranean.
Finally, a question about US domestic politics: How will the Democrats fare in the midterm elections?
Never before in my three decades in Congress have I been so concerned about a confluence of events putting us on the brink of the chaos of a world. From fighting Covid-19 to restoring and strengthening democracy at home and abroad, we’ve been busy tackling issues that define our times and challenge borders like climate change, migration and inflation. In this context, I believe the Democrats have made the case to the American public that we are the party that represents a brighter and better future. This month alone, Democrats were able to break the deadlock in Washington by passing the CHIPS Act to make critical investments in American workers and competitiveness, as well as the historic Cut Inflation Act of 2022, that will strengthen access to health care for millions of working families. , while making the largest clean energy investment the United States has ever made. As we continue to lead the international community in holding Vladimir Putin accountable for his brutal victimization of the Ukrainian people, while better positioning the United States to compete with China, I believe our efforts to reduce costs for the families of workers and investments in our national security will pay off when the American people go to the polls this fall.