NEW YORK – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in New York for the United Nations annual opening, told an American interviewer Congressional objections to Turkey getting F-16s are misguided and that he’s a friend of Greece.
He also took a swipe at US Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who supports Greece and heads the Foreign Relations Committee, who wants to block President Joe Biden’s plan to sell Turkey more F-16s.
Menendez, as do some other members of Congress – including the Hellenic Caucus – fear Erdogan would use the new fighter jets against Greece if a conflict breaks out although the countries are now in a detente period.
Erdogan told the US’ Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) that he won’t be pressured by Congress after he earlier said he wouldn’t abide by any restrictions on how or where the F-16s would be used if Turkey gets them.
Erdogan said that it “seems Menendez has taken a hostile approach to Turkey.
“He’s trying to pull us toward certain discussions of his choosing,” Erdogan, speaking via an interpreter, added, without clarifying what he meant.
“We are not going to be part of this,” Erdogan said, adding that Menendez “is not very familiar with Turkey” and “doesn’t seem to be familiar with Tayyip Erdogan either,” although the Senator is in both cases.
Responding to PBS journalist Amna Nawaz’s comment that some of the reservations against the sale concern the fact that the US-made fighter jets could be used against fellow NATO ally Greece, Erdogan said “our friendship with Greece is not what they make it out to be.”
“We are friends with Greece for many decades. We have never been fighting camps against one another,” said Erdogan ahead of a meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis about resuming formal talks.
The Turkish President didn’t explain the contradiction between claiming to be friendly toward Greece after he had threatened an invasion, demanded Greece take troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast, said he would send an energy research vessel and warship off Greek islands and that it would be a cause for war if Greece doubled its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.