The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez, on 19 December, called on the United States and the international community to hold Turkey accountable for violating the international law, during a speech that focused on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s aggressive policies.
The Democrat senator strongly criticised Erdoğan’s threats against Greece, his close relations with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s ongoing strikes against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria as well as Erdoğan’s escalating autocratic behaviour in the run-up to the 2023 Turkish elections.
“..I come to the Floor today to condemn the recent actions of the Turkish President which are not only disturbing—they are totally unacceptable,” said Menendez addressing to the Committee.
“In November he launched an air, artillery, and drone assault on Kurdish cities in Northern Syria. And suggested ground forces would soon follow,” Menendez said. “‘Payback time,’ Turkey’s Ministry of National Defence tweeted, announcing the operation against the Kurds who have long been a target of Erdoğan’s wrath,” he added.
The tweet posted by the ministry was linked to Ankara’s insistence on holding the mainly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its armed units responsible of a deadly bomb attack in İstanbul in early remember, despite repeated denials.
Turkey started airstrikes against the SDF on November 20 and Erdoğan have stated that his government plans a ground invasion to clear the areas in Syria near the Turkish border against Kurdish fighters, which Ankara sees linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Meanwhile, the SDF’s armed forces form the backbone of the US-led coalition fighting against the Islamic States (ISIS) in Syria and Turkey’s military operation has raised concerns in Washington due to its impact on the fight against the jihadist group.
“Attacking the very forces that are essential US partners in combating ISIS, and in doing so putting at risk US troops in Syria,” said Menendez, sharing similar concerns.
The senator also called for the international community to take action against the domestic policies of Erdoğan at home and called for a fair election in 2023.
“We need to hold Erdoğan accountable for his behaviour when he violates international laws, or challenges democratic norms, or allows his forces to commit human rights abuses. And that’s why I’m calling for free and fair elections in Turkey,” said Menendez during his speech.
About Turkey’s domestic affairs, the senator called for free and fair elections in Turkey called for the international community to condemn the president’s jailing of political opponents.
Menendez said that, as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he would not approve the sale of F-16s for Turkey until Erdoğan halted his campaign of aggression across the entire region.
“I’m sure this won’t make me many friends in Ankara. And President Erdoğan has criticised me personally—calling me an enemy of the state,” the senator said. “But if standing up to human rights abuses makes me an enemy of Erdoğan– if calling out Turkey for arming Azerbaijan and enabling the massacre of innocent Armenian civilians makes me an enemy of Erdoğan– if demanding Turkey recognise Greek and Cypriot sovereignty makes me an enemy of Erdoğan– then it is a badge I will wear with honour,” he added.
Menendez concluded his speech by saying,
“And so to my colleagues here in the Senate, I’ll close by saying—do not be afraid to stand up for American values in the face of Erdoğan’s aggression.
To the international community—do not hesitate to hold Turkey accountable for violating international law.
To the citizens living in the shadow of Erdogan’s Typhoon missiles—do not forget the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
And to those people in Turkey who still hope for a free, democratic future—do not give up.
One day soon, with your bravery, peace and prosperity will return to your homeland.”