US Sen. Bob Menendez, author of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act backing Greek interests, said Washington has to take a harder approach with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is planning to have ships drill for oil and gas off Greek islands.
The New Jersey Democrat, the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a podcast interview with the Hellenic American Leadership Council that Erdogan is a wild card in the region.
“Where Congress does have tension with this administration is when it comes to holding Turkey accountable, which it has refused to do,” he said, accusing Turkey of “interfering” in Greece and Cyprus’ territorial waters and their “rights to explore their exclusive economic zones.”
“That’s one of the things I keep trying to bring to the administration’s attention: that we cannot continue to act towards Turkey as we wish it were. We have to act towards Turkey as it is under Erdogan,” Menendez said
Turkey and Greece are scheduled to have talks – in Ankara, not Athens – about boundaries in the East Mediterranean and Aegean with the European Union, reluctant to provoke Erdogan, likely holding back sanctions Greece demanded
The East Med Act proves strong bipartisan support for “prioritizing the relationship with Greece and Cyprus,” Menendez said, expressing concern that US President Donald Trump “takes pride in his close relationship with Erdogan and obviously seems to enjoy interacting with authoritarians.”
“What’s worse, is that the US doesn’t appear to be getting anything out of it,” he added of the interaction.
Trump said he considers Erdogan a friend and a “hell of a leader,” and admires his near-dictatorial manner although the US hasn't allowed Turkey to buy US-made F-35 fighter jets because Turkey bought Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems undermining NATO, the defense alliance to which Greece, Turkey and the US belong.