August 14, 2020

Senators Menendez and Van Hollen Call for Sanctions in Response to Turkish Aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean

WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, today sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in advance of his meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias scheduled for Friday.  Citing Turkey’s recent deployment of naval vessels to shadow a drilling ship into Greece’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the Senators called on the Trump Administration to urge Turkey to remove its ships from international waters. The Senators also urged Secretary Pompeo to work with the European Union to impose new sanctions on Turkey, if Turkey continues its increasing aggressions in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The Senators wrote, “The failure of the United States to act decisively at this critical time will only invite further Turkish escalation. Therefore, we urge you take all appropriate measures to ensure Turkey removes its naval vessels from Greece’s EEZ and adheres to its international obligations.

A copy of the letter can be found HERE and below.

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

In advance of your meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias tomorrow in Vienna, we are writing with grave concern regarding Turkey’s provocative actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. Earlier this week, Turkey sent naval vessels to accompany a drilling ship into Greece’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to survey waters for oil and gas exploration. Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu has said that Ankara would issue new seismic exploration and drilling licenses by the end of August.

As you have previously stated, the United States “will not allow anyone, Turkey, to make unlawful drilling” and “we have told Turkey that actions in international waters are unacceptable and we will take diplomatic initiatives so that all actions that are to being taken are lawful.”

In accordance with your prior statements, we ask you to call on Turkey to remove its ships from Greece’s EEZ and to resolve this matter in accordance with international law.

Second, we ask that you immediately begin to work with the European Union on a coordinated response to Turkey’s increasing provocations and illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean. The European Union has already imposed an entry ban and asset freeze on two Turkish energy executives and France recently deployed ships to the Eastern Mediterranean. The United States and the European Union should immediately develop a plan of comprehensive joint sanctions that would be imposed on key sectors of the Turkish economy if Turkey continues to pursue illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and refuses to resolve these matters through an impartial international tribunal. 

Third, we reiterate our insistence that the administration follow the law and impose sanctions on Turkey under Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (P.L. 115-44).  Under President Erdogan, Turkey has shirked its international obligations and moved away from the NATO Alliance. The administration’s failure to impose sanctions on Turkey for its purchase of the S-400, in accordance with the law, has emboldened President Erdogan’s aggression across the Eastern Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East.

The failure of the United States to act decisively at this critical time will only invite further Turkish escalation. Therefore, we urge you take all appropriate measures to ensure Turkey removes its naval vessels from Greece’s EEZ and adheres to its international obligations.

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