U.S. Congress looks to Mediterranean allies to counter Turkey


U.S. lawmakers are investing in new efforts to bolster ties with Israel, Greece and Cyprus to counter Turkey’s aggressive moves in east Mediterranean, the Hill reported on Wednesday.

The U.S. Congress last week passed a legislation that strengthens military ties with Greece and lifts a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus. The measure reaffirms the U.S. commitment to those countries and positions the allies to keep Turkey’s regional ambitions in check, the Hill said.

Congress is also mandating U.S. agencies report on any Turkish violations of sea and air borders of Cyprus and Greece, the Hill said.

“The bill itself is doing things that are logical and makes basic sense of what’s happening in the region,” said Julie Rayman, deputy director of policy and diplomatic affairs for the American Jewish Committee (AJC), one of the groups that pushed for passage of the legislation.

“But what it allows Congress and the U.S. government to do on a day-to-day basis in response to Turkish aggression or provocation may be even more impactful,” she said.

Turkey, which has stepped up efforts this year to increase its share in east Mediterranean’s potentially rich hydrocarbon reserves, signed last month a marine boundaries agreement with the U.N.-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli. The deal, which ignores the territorial waters of some Greek islands and aims to block Greece, Israel and Cyprus’ plan to build a pipeline to carry natural gas to Europe, has further escalated tensions in the region.

John Hagee, the founder and chairman of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian administration had drifted away from values that once had made Turkey an ally of the United States and Israel.

“The least we can do is increase the cooperation between the United States, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus to show Ankara that nations large and small will not be bullied by Turkey,” said Hagee, the head of one of the largest evangelical organisations in United States.

“If Turkey persists in its turn towards Russia and Iran, their economy will suffer, and very soon they will discover the only allies they have are those who encompass the small axis of pariah states,” he said.

But Turkey is not completely being shut out from the regional developments, according to Endy Zemenides, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council and a supporter of the bill passed by U.S. Congress.

“I’m not sure anyone wants to write off Turkey. I think people have come to terms with the fact that we can’t let Turkey play hostage politics with us,” he said.



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