ATHENS — Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis phoned US Senator Robert Mendendez, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and known friend of Greece, to discuss Turkish provocations in the seas.
The New Jersey Democrat is one of the architects of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act and had, called for sanctions against Turkey over its “escalation in aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean in a way that threatens US interests.”
“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, reported the Greek newspaper Kathimerini.
Erdogan has been increasing tensions between the countries by allowing constant violations by Turkish fighter jets of Greek airspace, sending warships past Greek islands, and disputing the sovereignty of Greek islands and waters.
The Turkish leader also said he will send drillships off Crete to hunt for oil and gas under a maritime deal with Libya dividing the seas between them, an agreement unrecognized by any other country nor the United Nations.
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 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.