New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Two days following the monumental bipartisan legislation introduced at the U.S. Senate by Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio, the AJC (American Jewish Committee) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) launched and new campaign calling on the members of the Greek American and the Jewish American Communities to write to their Senators urging them to support the bill. The letter reads as follows:
On behalf of AJC (American Jewish Committee) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), we write to urge you to cosponsor S.1102, the bipartisan Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act, introduced by Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Marco Rubio of Florida.
At a time when the Eastern Mediterranean is emerging as a distinct and vital geopolitical region, Congress can provide the tools for the U.S. to capitalize on the existing partnership between the region’s Western democracies – Israel, Greece and Cyprus. This broad and far-reaching bill provides tools for a comprehensive U.S. strategy in the region, covering energy cooperation, security matters, and countering malign influences in the region.
As the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean increasingly find large and promising natural gas fields, we keep in mind that growing energy partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean should not be seen in economic terms alone, but also as a peace building project linking countries and peoples together and replacing conflict with cooperation and coexistence. The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act bolsters already flourishing partnerships for the exploration and exploitation of undersea energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean—the further development of which can only benefit the U.S. The provisions in the bill will help the United States be a more active participant in energy diplomacy in the region.
The bill will repeal provisions prohibiting the export and transfer of defensive articles and arms to Cyprus. Cyprus is one of our strongest strategic partners in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the beginning of the second Gulf War, Cyprus allowed U.S. warplanes to land and refuel after Turkey refused to grant the U.S permission to land in Turkey. The arms embargo was started in 1987 to encourage reunification efforts and to avoid an arms race on the island. Sadly, reunification is as illusive now as it was in 1987. Further, the arms race has not been avoided. Turkey has circumvented the arms embargo by placing tens of thousands of Turkish troops armed with American weapons in the northern region of Cyprus and the arms embargo has forced the Republic of Cyprus to purchase defensive weapons from other nations. The strategic relationship between the U.S. and the Republic of Cyprus will always have a ceiling on it as long as the arms embargo remains.
Recognizing the power American global leadership has to be a guarantor of stability, security and peace for our nation and our allies, this bill makes modest investments in Greece including the increase of International Military Educational Training program funding and the reintroduction of Foreign Military Assistance. During the November 2018 Strategic Dialogue, the Trump Administration expressed a desire for Greece to increase its procurement budget. The Act proffers a minor amount – $3 million – to the set the precedent of giving foreign military assistance to Greece.
Both AJC and HALC support restricting sales of the F-35 jets to Turkey until Turkey starts behaving responsibly. Given President Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism, efforts at Islamicization of a traditionally secular country, coziness with Moscow, and aggression in the eastern Mediterranean, the Act requires a joint resolution of Congress before F35s can be physically transferred to Turkey.
The bill further requires a report from the Departments of State, Defense and Energy on violations in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. Specifically, the report will examine Turkey’s encroachment on Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone and violations of Greek airspace.
The Jewish-American and the Hellenic-American community have long coordinated to advance mutually-beneficial goals. AJC leader Maynard Wishner and Greek-American leader Andy Athens together spearheaded the successful effort to upgrade official relations between Greece and Israel to full ambassadorial level 28 years ago. For the past six years, AJC and HALC have advocated for a more comprehensive U.S. strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean. The two groups collaborated on the creation of the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance, and on multiple policy initiatives in the region.
On behalf of both AJC and HALC, we urge your support of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act and thank you for the consideration of our views.
Director of Political Outreach
American Jewish Committee
Hellenic American Leadership Council