US Senator Robert Menendez spoke of Turkey as “the most persistent and proximate threat in the Eastern Mediterranean” in his acceptance speech as he received an honorary doctorate by the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
Menendez, who is also the Chairman of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, named Turkey as one of the major challenges the global community is confronting—besides China, Russia, and climate change.
“Despite its status as a NATO ally, Turkey challenges Greek sovereignty with provocative overflights in the Aegean Sea. Violating airspace with fighter jets is simply unacceptable behavior from any country, and is definitely unacceptable behavior from a NATO country,” he pointed out.
Referring to the Cyprus problem, Sen. Menendez stressed that “while it has been almost five decades, Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus remains a terrible stain on the history of Europe that must be resolved.”
“Erdogan’s bombast at Varosha last summer, in violation of UN security council resolutions, was just another reminder that he is not seriously interested in finding a tangible path forward,” he added.
Menendez against new arms sales to Turkey
The US Senator reiterated his known opposition to the sale of new armaments to Turkey, listing a number of reasons.
These reasons, according to Menendez, include: the number of lawyers and journalists in Turkish jails; overflights of Greek territorial airspace and seeking to afflict Greece’s territorial waters; impeding Greece’s right over its exclusive economic zone to drill for energy deposits that exist that are so important today; creating challenges in Libya; and seeking new attacks in Syria.
These are “not the actions of a responsible NATO member […nor] the actions of a democracy, and as such, as far as I am concerned, it should not see the possibility of having any superior weapons sold to it by the USA,” Menendez explained.
According to Sen. Menendez, “Erdogan seeks aggression as a diversion from the dire failure of his horrific economic circumstances that afflict the Turkish people.”
He said he expects “the US to hold Erdogan accountable for his behavior” and not remain silent in the midst of what are Turkish violations of the rule of law, including challenges to democratic values by which the Turkish government permits its forces to “commit human rights abuses.”