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Turkey tensions with Cyprus in Congress report

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The possible sale of F-16s to Turkey and tensions between Turkey, Cyprus and Greece are included in a US Congressional Research Service report which outlines the Biden administration’s support of the deal.

The report entitled “Turkey: Background and US Relations” features Greece and Cyprus alongside Russia, Sweden-Finland-NATO and the Middle East as major issues.

The report notes that US President Biden “has voiced support for sales that would upgrade Turkey’s ageing F-16 fleet, but some Members of Congress have expressed opposition.”

“Long-standing disputes between Greece and Turkey over territorial rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas spiked in 2022 amid greater US strategic cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, as well as renewed disagreements regarding Greek islands close to Turkey’s coast,” the report reads.

It also accounts for the dispute between Cyprus and Turkey about Eastern Mediterranean energy exploitation in recent years, noting it “appears to have brought Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Egypt closer together.”

It directly relates tensions between Cyprus, Greece and Turkey and the US response.

The report further refers to lifting the US arms embargo against the Republic of Cyprus in September.

“After Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in October 2022 that the United States no longer maintains a balanced approach in the Aegean, US Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake released a statement saying that there has been no shift in US security posture to favour Turkey or Greece and that the NATO allies’ collective efforts are focused on ending Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

Israel

On relations between Israel and Turkey, it said: “Turkish officials have expressed interest in energy cooperation with Israel.

“However, Israeli officials reportedly remain sceptical about prospects for a subsea Israel- Turkey natural gas pipeline.”

“While Israel has pursued greater high-level interaction with Turkey, it may be cautious about significant near-term improvements in bilateral relations and appears to remain committed to close strategic ties with Greece and the Republic of Cyprus”.

It also says it is “unclear how the expected late 2022 return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister might affect the improvement in Turkey-Israel relations.”

The CRS report also outlines the new position by the Biden administration in favour of selling F-16s to Turkey and the resistance this has met in Congress, particularly by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez.

Menendez remained sceptical, saying, “[Turkey] acts in ways that are contrary to our interests in a whole host of things.

“I think the administration has to stop seeing … the aspirational part of what we would like Turkey to be and realise what Turkey is under Erdogan.”

A State Department spokesperson said in response to questions about the status of possible F-16 sales that “Turkey’s desire for F-16s is something that we have discussed, including at the most senior levels, with our Turkish allies, but it’s also something that we’re discussing with the Hill.”

The report also says that “tensions between Turkey and other NATO members have fueled internal US/NATO discussions about the continued use of Turkish bases.”

“As a result of the tensions and questions about the safety and utility of Turkish territory for US and NATO assets, some observers have advocated exploring alternative basing arrangements in the region.”

Some reports, it adds, “suggest that expanded or potentially expanded US military presences in places such as Greece, Cyprus, and Jordan might be connected with concerns about Turkey.”