US senator Robert Menendez has denounced the escalation of Turkish aggression in the eastern Mediterranean against the sovereign rights of Greece, Cyprus, saying it threatens American interests.
The comments were made in a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
He also called for the immediate imposition of CAATSA sanctions on Turkey, for the purchase and installation of Russian S-400 missiles.
Menendez expressed deep concern about recent actions Turkey that marks an escalation in aggression in the eastern Mediterranean in a way that threatens U.S. interests.
“U.S. ties with Greece, Cyprus, and Israel are vital for stability in the eastern Mediterranean, and the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Act of 2019…sought to strengthen these connections,” the letter said.
“In recent months President Erdogan has been threatening regional stability and U.S. policy interests by increasing aggression “against our Greek and Cypriot partners”.
Menendez argued the clearest manifestations of Turkey’s pattern of destabilizing behaviour is its purchase of the S-400 air defence system from Russia, which severely threatened U.S. security interests in Europe.
“Turkey’s choice calls into question Ankara’s commitment to the alliance – a bedrock of U.S. national security – and endangers NATO interoperability.”
He said the purchase of a $2.5 bln military system clearly constitutes a significant transaction with the Russian defence sector as defined in U.S. law, which triggers sanctions.
“The appropriate response is clear. Under the implementation standards your own Department has set, Russia’s delivery of the S-400 is a clear violation of CAATSA.
When China purchased and took delivery of the exact same system from Russia, the United States rightly imposed CAATSA sanctions”.
Menendez said applying a different standard to Turkey based on the personal affinity that President Trump apparently feels for President Erdogan is no way to conduct foreign policy.
“The Administration’s failure to impose sanctions against Turkey for this purchase will drastically diminish the deterrent effect of CAATSA sanctions for other countries considering significant purchases of Russian military equipment.”
He also said that beyond the purchase of the S-400s, Turkey has increasingly violated the sovereignty of countries on its borders and across the Mediterranean.
“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.”
On Turkish violations of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone Menendez said Turkish ships have increased exploration activities in the EEZ, seeking to capitalize on the suspension of international energy companies’ exploration activities during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The European Union has taken welcome steps in sanctioning Turkish individuals involved in violating the Cypriot EEZ.
In solidarity with our allies and friends in Europe, the United States should follow suit and immediately impose sanctions on these same individuals.”
He pointed out that Cyprus is not Washington’s only partner in the Eastern Mediterranean dealing with Turkish violations of its sovereignty as Greece experiences it on nearly a daily basis.
“It may only be a matter of time before this recklessness results in loss of life or destruction of property”.
He hoped that in the future the US 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.
I urge you to fully implement appropriate CAATSA sanctions and core components of the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Act, a critically important expression of commitment to our relationship with Cyprus, Greece, and Israel.
I also urge you to reschedule your postponed visit to Cyprus as soon as possible so that we can further advance these goals.” (source CNA)