GR US

Sen. Menendez Wants Turkish Sanctions for Provoking Greece, Upsetting Seas

Αssociated Press

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez celebrates at his campaign headquarters in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

One of Greece’s champions in the United States Senate, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez said Turkey should be sanctioned over its “escalation in aggression in the eastern Mediterranean in a way that threatens US interests.”

That was also an apparent reference to Turkey saying it would drill for energy off the island of Crete and claiming waters off Greek islands and the Continental Shelf under a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them, an agreement no other country recognizes.

Menendez is one of the main creators of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act, and said Turkey has gone too far after also drilling off Cyprus.

“US ties with Greece, Cyprus and Israel are vital for stability in the eastern Mediterranean… However, in recent months (Turkish) President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan has been threatening regional stability and US policy interests by increasing aggression against our Greek and Cypriot partners,” Menendez said in a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Kathimerini.

The partnership act authorizes new security assistance for Cyprus and Greece and is aimed at lifting the US arms embargo on Cyprus, which hasn’t fully happened, although Turkey keeps arming a 30,000-strong army on the northern third occupied since a 1974 invasion.

It also authorizes the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation among the United States, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus, shutting out Turkey.

It could prove very difficult to sanction Turkey as Erdogan is a good friend of US President Donald Trump, who has called him a “hell of a leader,” even as Turkey leads the world in jailing journalists and is essentially an authoritarian state.

A new book by Trump's former National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed a special relationship has been established between Trump and Erdogan, through an underground channel comprised of their sons-in-law and shared banking interests.

But Trump has been unable to get past Congress authorization for Turkey to buy F-35 fighter jets that critics said could be used against Greece, which also has a strategic and military relationship with the US amid fears it would be left alone in a conflict with Turkey.

Turkey bought an S-400 missile defense system from Russia, an ideological enemy of NATO to which Greece, Turkey and the US belong, irking Menendez and the US Congress which said that was at odds with its relationship with Washington.

Menendez said Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 missile defense system from Russia was part of its “pattern of destabilizing behavior” and said that “applying a different standard to Turkey based on the personal affinity that (US) President (Donald) Trump apparently feels for President Erdogan is no way to conduct foreign policy,” Trump like strongmen leaders.

“Since January, Turkey has become the latest country to violate the UN arms embargo on Libya and has leveraged military support for Libya’s Government of National Accord to push an ill-conceived maritime border agreement that ignores not only the legitimate claims of Greece and Cyprus, but also basic international law. Such actions run counter to efforts to promote stability in the region,” Menendez added.

“Turkey’s repeated violations of Cypriot and Greek sovereignty highlight President Erdogan’s lack of commitment to the rule of law,” he said, the paper also reported.

“It is my sincere hope that in the future we can count on a democratic, productive partner in our NATO ally Turkey. However, we must uphold our own laws in pursuit of our interests and stand with our allies in the face of aggression,” he added without indicating what kind of sanctions he wanted, almost certainly set to be opposed by Trump.