WASHINGTON – The United States has continued to give verbal support to Greece against Turkish provocations in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean where it's planning to hunt for energy but said it won't back Greece's call for sanctions.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, in a phone call with US President Donald Trump, said Turkey was destabilizing the region and undermining NATO, the defense alliance to which all three countries belong and with has refused to intervene over Turkey sending fighter jets and warships into Greece territory.
Phil Reeker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, wrote a letter to the American Hellenic Institute in response to the group's President, Nick Larigakis, writing to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We have conveyed to Turkey repeatedly that its overflights of Greek territory, its drilling activities in the waters off Cyprus, its signing of a maritime delimitation MOU with Libya, and its stated intent to explore for hydrocarbons on the basis of that MOU are provocative, unhelpful, and raise tensions in the region,” Reeker wrote on behalf of Pompeo, said Kathimerini.
But that's as far as the US is willing to go, Trump saying he considers Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a friend and a “hell of a leader,” amid uncertainty which way he would tilt if a conflict breaks out with Greek and Turkish warships standing off near the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
“Secretary Pompeo takes his responsibilities under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) seriously and fully intends to comply with the law. The Department cannot pre-judge sanctions decisions or preview a timeline for a determination specific to this transaction,” Reeker said.
In his letter, Larigakis expressed his worries over Turkish activities in the seas, the European Union reluctant to confront Erdogan, fearful he will flood the bloc with more refugees and migrants through Greek islands and borders.
“I write to reiterate our grave concern about Turkey’s demonstrated willingness to cause instability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the broader region to the detriment of US interests,” Larigakis said.
Reeker wrote the US was deeply concerned, diplomatic code to avoid taking a stand with the White House wanting to balance interests in both countries while trying to dampen down prospects of a conflict over energy.
“These tensions complicate NATO’s efforts to present a united front in the face of Russia’s destabilizing activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and pose a risk of unintended escalation. Our objective is to support Allied unity in NATO, de-escalate tensions, and ensure that lines of communication remain open,” the US diplomat wrote without explaining while something isn't done about it then.
He said the US also continues to object Turkey buying S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, an ideological enemy of NATO, the gear capable of undermining the defense alliance and Greece.
The US also said it would bar Turkey from buying American-made F-35 fighter jets that could be used against Greece but hasn't done it yet, with Erdogan demanding to be able to buy them.
Reeker also hinted that the US has no intention of getting tougher with Turkey because he said the country “remains an important NATO Ally, and we will continue working with Turkey on areas of mutual interest and addressing issues of mutual concern,” although Turkey is also undercutting NATO.
Larigakis had written of his frustration with the US' policy of trying to satisfy both Greece and Turkey, adding that, “There is no longer any point in placing Turkey within the Morgenthau-Kissinger context in which nations pursue their national economic and political self-interests.”
He called out Turkey’s Blue Homeland doctrine as contrary to US and NATO interests, while he also called on all available sanctions to be imposed on Ankara “not to influence its behavior, but to neutralize and contain its actions,” which Washington won't do, rendering the argument moot, pending any change.