HALC Applauds Suspension of US F-35’s to Turkey

FILE - President Donald Trump points to the crowd as he signs the $716 billion defense policy bill named for Sen. John McCain during a ceremony Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, in Fort Drum, N.Y. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), among the most influential Diaspora groups trying to block the sale of US-made F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, applauded a law that suspended the transactions for 90 days, until a review of Turkey also buying a Russian S-400 missile system amid fears both could be used against Greece in a conflict.

“The language included in the NDAA (legislation) barring the transfer of F-35s to Turkey is but the first step in a long-overdue reassessment of the US-Turkey relationship,” said HALC Executive Director Endy Zemenides.

“For far too long, Turkey has acted with impunity in the region, threatening America’s allies, violating international law, and undermining regional security,” he said, with volatility growing in Turkey after President Donald Trump’s Administration doubled tariffs on Turkish steel, sending the lira plunging, angering Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We’re happy that the Trump Administration is increasing pressure on President Erdogan, but temporary measures need to be part of a comprehensive re-evaluation of American long-term policy toward a Turkey which had made clear its intent to turn away from the West and from democratic standards,” HALC’s statement added.

“HALC, along with allied advocacy organizations and foreign policy experts, has long sounded the alarm over the transfer of F-35 technology to Turkey’s authoritarian regime, a regime which has engaged in provocative and belligerent behavior towards Greece, Cyprus and Israel, has actively undermined US anti-terrorism efforts in the region, and has engaged in hostage diplomacy by unjustifiably detaining American and Greek citizens,” the group said.

HALC said the bill signed by Trump was a success for groups and political leaders and others who had rallied to try to keep the fighter jets out of Turkish hands, which would have given the Turkish Air Force superiority over Greek F-16 fighter jets with pilots engaging in mock dog fights frequently with Turkish pilots who regularly violate Greek airspace.

“The language included in the NDAA barring the transfer of F-35s to Turkey is but the first step in a long-overdue reassessment of the US-Turkey relationship,” said Zemenides.

Turkey received its first pair of a projected 100 aircraft in June. The jets remain in the US while their Turkish pilots receive training. Delivery will not take place before September 2019.
But relations with Turkey have gotten tense over the steel tariffs after failed talks to release Andrew Brunson, a 50-year-old American evangelical minister, imprisoned since 2016 for his alleged anti-government activity against Erdogan, which he denied.

Trump opposed to Congressional initiatives by lawmakers friendly to Greece that would restrict the transfer of the F-35s.