Menendez: ‘US needs to hold Erdogan accountable for his behavior’
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Robert Menendez, called on Turkey to withdraw ‘every last Turkish soldier from Cyprus’
Turkish President Erdogan should stop all overflights of Greece and withdraw every last Turkish soldier from Cyprus, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Robert Menendez, said on Monday. Given all this recent behavior, the United States should not put F-16 fighter jets in the hands of President Erdogan, he added, while addressing the Senate. He also said that the US needs to hold Erdogan accountable for his behavior when he violates international laws.
Speaking about Cyprus, the Senator said that “five decades after Turkey’s illegal occupation of Cyprus, Erdogan is still stoking divisions on the island. Last year, he proposed reopening the Cypriot town of Varosha in an attempt to spread Turkish influence. That is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that were condemned by the European Union.”
“President Erdogan has criticized me personally, calling me an enemy of the state. But if standing up to human rights abuses makes me an enemy of Erdogan…then it is a badge I will wear with honor”
And this September, Menendez went on, “Erdogan threatened to reinforce the already 40,000 Turkish troops on Cyprus with more land, naval and aerial weapons, ammunition and vehicles.”
Personally, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will not approve any F-16s for Turkey until Erdogan halts his campaign of aggression across the entire region, he added.
“I’m sure I won’t make many friends in Ankara, and President Erdogan has criticized me personally, calling me an enemy of the state. But if standing up to human rights abuses makes me an enemy of Erdogan – if calling out Turkey for arming Azerbaijan and enabling the massacre of innocent Armenian civilians makes me an enemy of Erdogan – if demanding Turkey recognize Greek and Cypriot sovereignty makes me an enemy of Erdogan – then it is a badge I will wear with honor” Menendez said.
The Senator also referred to last summer when the Turkish President sent fighter jets over the Greek islands, challenging Greek sovereignty repeatedly. “This summer he sent fighter jets over the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. So his threats to strike Athens fit a pattern of Turkish claims to what is Greek territory” he added.
“He has said Turkish forces may land in Greece ‘suddenly one night.’ As violent as Erdogan’s tenure has been at home, his foreign policy has been absolutely awful. But one thing is clear—the United States must take the Turkish President’s actions seriously. We need to hold Erdogan accountable for his behavior when he violates international laws, or challenges democratic norms, or allows his forces to commit human rights abuses” he concluded.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. Varosha, the fenced-off section of the Turkish-occupied town of Famagusta, is often described as a ‘ghost town’.
UN Security Council resolution 550 (1984) considers any attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible and calls for the transfer of this area to the administration of the UN. UN Security Council resolution 789 (1992) also urges that with a view to the implementation of resolution 550 (1984), the area at present under the control of the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus be extended to include Varosha.
The Turkish Cypriot leadership announced in July 2021 a partial lifting of the military status in Varosha. A few months earlier, on October 8, 2020, the Turkish side opened part of the fenced area of Varosha, following an announcement made in Ankara on October 6. The UN Security Council called for the reversal of this course of action, while the UN Secretary-General, in his latest report on his mission of good offices in Cyprus, reiterated his concern over developments in the fenced-off area, noting that the position of the UN on Varosha remains unchanged. The EU also expressed grave concern.