US Senator and Chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez at the ceremony in the grand hall in Athens, August 26, 2022. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Michalis Karagiannis)
ATHENS – With 2022 on a path to see a record number of violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets, a visiting US Sen. Bob Menendez said it has to end and that Turkey is the most “persistent threat” in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The New Jersey Democrat, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told an event at the University of Athens where he received an Honorary Doctorate for his work supporting Greece that President Joe Biden has to step in to stop it, NATO doing nothing about it.
“I expect the United States of America to hold (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan accountable,” accusing him of using “aggression as a diversion from the dire failure of the horrific economic circumstances that afflict the Turkish people,” said Kathimerini.
“Despite its status as a NATO ally, Turkey challenges Greek sovereignty with provocative overflights in the Aegean Sea. Violating airspace with fighter jets is simply unacceptable behavior from any country. It is certainly unacceptable behavior from a NATO country,” said Menendez.
His voice counts as in his position he’s a critical part of bipartisan legislation boosting support for Greek-US military cooperation after they renewed a pact that will see more American forces in Greece.
The problem could be Biden, who had been a supporter of Greece but wants to sell more F-16 fighters to Turkey and upgrade that country’s Air Force, which requires Congressional approval – which he can override by declaring it’s in the American national interest.
Erdogan said he’s confident of getting more American fighter jets despite reports that he will make a second deal with Russia to purchase S-400 missile defense systems that undermine NATO and could be used against Greece in a conflict.
After Turkey made an initial buy of the Russian systems, the US barred Erdogan’s request to buy more advanced F-35’s – which Greece now wants – but he said he will get those too.
Menendez also referred to the continued Turkish occupation in the north of Cyprus as a “terrible stain on the history of Europe that must be resolved,” while accusing Erdogan of “bombast” during last year’s partial reopening of the fenced-off suburb of Famagusta in Turkish-occupied Varosha.
Erdogan’s stance, said Menendez, was “just another reminder that he is not seriously interested in finding a tenable path forward,” Turkey ignoring soft European Union sanctions to drill for gas and oil off the island.
Erdogan also refused to go along with EU sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine – despite Turkey trying fruitlessly to join the bloc since 2005, prospects worsening under his hardline government.
Menendez said Erdogan is siding up to Russian and said President Vladimir Putin want to “secure military access to the Mediterranean as a means to threaten Europe’s southern flank.”
“We must, we must not let that happen,” Menendez stressed, with Turkey having control of straits to the Black Sea and Russia, giving Erdogan another major bargaining chip to often get what he wants.
Referring to Putin, the US Senator, a New Jersey Democrat, said that, “We must work together to ensure that he knows that the United States and the countries that value territorial integrity and freedom will stand with Greece and our allies.”
In the first seven months of 2022 there were 4,734 violations of Greek airspace by Turkish fighter jets, said Kathimerini, although the US curiously agrees with Turkish claims that Greece can’t have a 10-mile airspace border over its territory, only six miles.
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