U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is calling for a closer partnership with Israel, Greece and Cyprus as he backs a new strategy in the eastern Mediterranean--and taking aim at Turkey.
This week, Rubio, who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, paired up with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, to bring out the “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act.”
“The legislation would allow the U.S. to fully support the trilateral partnership of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus through energy and defense cooperation initiatives—including by lifting the embargo on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus,” Rubio’s office noted. “The legislation also seeks to update U.S. strategy in recognition of consequential changes in the eastern Mediterranean, including the recent discovery of large natural gas fields, and a deterioration of Turkey’s relationship with the United States and our regional partners.”
“This bipartisan legislation will continue to enhance our energy and security cooperation with our allies in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” Rubio said. “By lifting the U.S. arms embargo on Cyprus and extending necessary Foreign Military Assistance to Greece, this legislation brings forth a comprehensive approach to the stability of key regional partners.”
“The United States has significant national security interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, bolstered by strong and expanding relationships with Greece, Israel and Cyprus. The cooperation in energy security among these countries in recent years has paved the way for cooperation on a broad regional security, economic, and energy agenda,” Menendez said. “The time has come for the U.S. to deepen this cooperation and build on the constructive progress made by our allies to help ensure a secure Eastern Mediterranean. This legislation seeks to strengthen our bonds of friendship through joint efforts to promote peace, prosperity, and security for our nations.”
Besides ending the ban on arms sales to Cyprus, the bill would create the United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to “facilitate energy cooperation" between the countries; send $3 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Greece; send $2 million to Greece and another $2 million for Cyprus in International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance; and “impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, as long as Turkey continues with plans to purchase the S-400 air defense system from the Russian Federation, a purchase that would be sanctionable under U.S. law; and require the administration to submit to Congress a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as reports on malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region.”
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., who helped found the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance (CHIA) to build ties between the U.S., Israel, Cyprus and Greece, slammed the idea of transferring F35s to Turkey, especially as that nation continues to flirt with Russia, including having a Russian S400 missile defense system. Menendez joined other senators in publishing a piece in the New York Times calling on the US to restrict F35 sales to Turkey if it accepts Russian S400s.
“Giving Ankara our top fighter when it goes forward with Russian S400s endangers America’s national security,” Bilirakis insisted this week.
Also this week, Rubio joined a host of senators, including Republican U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Democrat U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, to introduce the “Defending United States Citizens and Diplomatic Staff from Political Prosecutions Act" which, they insist, will “address the ongoing wrongful detentions of U.S. citizens and diplomatic staff by the government of Turkey.”
“Erdogan’s government continues to undermine the rule of law in Turkey, including by targeting American citizens and locally-employed U.S. diplomatic staff. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to hold senior Turkish officials who are knowingly responsible for the wrongful detention of or politically-motivated false charges against American citizens and U.S. local employees at our diplomatic posts accountable,” Rubio said. “The Turkish government must live up to its commitment and act like a NATO ally if they wish to continue to be treated like one.”
Rubio also teamed up with Menendez and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., this week to bring out a resolution “to ensure the foreign policy of the United States reflects appropriate understanding and sensitivity concerning issues related to genocide, human rights, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing documented in the United States record relating to the Armenian Genocide” which Turkey has pushed back on in recent years.
“Carried out by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, the Armenian Genocide resulted in the forced deportation of nearly 2 million Armenians, of whom 1.5 million were killed,” Rubio’s office noted.