Washington, DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Prominent members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives expressed their support for the Resolution 2913 “To promote energy and security partnerships in the Eastern Mediterranean”, introduced by Senators Menendez and Rubio (on the Senate side) and Congressmen Deutch, Cicilline and Bilirakis.
More than 41 Senators and Congressmen attended the 35th PSEKA Conference, that took place in Washington from June 4-6. In addition, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) advocated separately for the bill, in all their meeting on the Capitol Hill, on June 3 and 4.
The PSEKA Conference moved on the Capitol Hill on Wednesday, June 5th and besides Resolution 2913, the issues of the institutionalization of the partnership (as passed by the House Appropriations Committee) and to block the sale of the F-35s to Turkey were also raised. It has to be noted that members of Congress were introduced by Greek American supporters and constituents, such as Dennis Mihel, Savas Tsivikos, Alex Warren, Nick Karacostas, Zenon Christodoulou, Nick Furris etc.
Speaking at the conference, Congressman from Florida Ted Deutch thanked the community leaders for their efforts to promote the EastMed partnership bill, explaining the importance of the bill to the U.S. interests and the security and prosperity of the region. He also said that now is the time to lift the arms embargo. As co-chairman of the Congressional Hellenic Israeli Alliance (CHIA) he said that no one could have imagined six years its success for promotion of the partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel and the Hellenic issues.
Mario Diaz Balart from Florida criticized the Turkish leadership for creating problems in the Aegean, in the Eastern Mediterranean and on Cyprus and expressed support for a free and prosperous Cyprus. At the same time he asked from Greece and Cyprus greater solidarity for the human rights issues in Cuba.
New York congressman Tom Suozzi said President Erdogan makes it difficult for everyone to deal with him and he expressed support for “the just and right cause o Cyprus”.
Lee Zeldin, a Republican congressman from New York spoke about his recent visit to Cyprus and his meeting with President Anastasiades, He expressed strong support for the reunification of Cyprus and the Resolution 2913 and said that F-35s should not be transferred to Turkey.
Congresswoman Carolyn Malloney, co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus told the delegates that the escalation of the Turkish aggression in the Eastern Mediterranean is a cause of great concern and called on the U.S. administration to clearly condemn the Turkish actions.
“We are very proud for stopping the transfer of the F-35s to Turkey
“, said the congresswoman from New York, who called 2913 a very appropriate bill for the security of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Congressman Albio Sires from New Jersey expressed serious concern about the direction Turkey has taken and supported 2913 as very important for the partnership of Greece, Cyprus and Israel.
“ I will continue to work with you until the solution of the Cyprus problem, because your cause is my cause”, the Democratic congressman said.
Grace Meng from Bayside, NY, spoke about her close relationship with the Greek American Community of her district and promised to be a co-sponsor of the East Med partnership bill
Congressman Patrick Maloney from New York expressed concern about Turkey, not only for its recent actions, but for a long time,
Congressman from Florida Charlie Crist (whose grandfather Adam Chistodoulou emigrated from Cyprus) encouraged the Community leaders to continue advocating their causes in Washington, because this activity makes all the difference.
Gus Bilirakis from Florida, co-chair of the Hellenic Caucus and CHIA, explained that many parts of the Resolution 2913 will pass through NDAA and other Bills. He pointed out that there is strong bipartisan support in both chambers and he cited information that the Trump administration will support it. He also announced that on July 1st he will be visiting Cyprus with Congressman Deutch.
Junior Republican congressman from Florida Mike Walz, a former green beret, expressed concern about the direction Erdogan is taking his COUNTRY.
“He is going away from the most superior fighter plane, the F-35 in order to buy the Russian S-400 missiles. The situation with the Turkish government is intractable, but we need to find a way to keep the relationship with the Turkish people”, he said,
Maryland Congressman John Sarbanes told the PSEKA Conference that Turkey has proven to be an ally in name only.
“The relationship with the United States it’s not a values based one and Turkey hasn’t been there many times, when we needed her.”
He pointed out that Turkey should not be able to take delivery of the F-35s.
“We need to introduce a bill to prohibit the sale of the F-35s. We don’t sell them F-35s, period”, Sarbanes said.
Sarbanes also addressed the younger delegates, telling them they should be proud to walk on the path of great leaders, who are fighting for Cyprus since 1974. He encouraged the youth to get well educated on the issues, in order to be able to continue the effort.
Congressman Frank Pallone from New Jersey condemned Turkish violations of the Cypriot EEZ and he told the Conference that the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Elliot Engel, has sent a letter to U.S. energy companies urging them not to cooperate with Turkey’s illegal drillings. He also supported the trilateral partnership of Greece, Cyprus and Israel and said he was happy to see the trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Armenia to take place.
New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne Jr. expressed support for a free and united Cyprus and he promised to keep fighting on the side of the Greek Cypriots, as his late father was doing for many years in Congress.
Congresswoman Dina Titus from Nevada said the United States should be actively engaged in the Eastern Mediterranean, because if it is absent, Russia may fill the vacuum.
Congressman Brad Schneider from Illinois said he is proud to work on many issues with HALC and he signed up on the EastMed bill. He praised the role of Greece and Cyprus as strategic partners and allies of the United States and he praised the work of Ambassador Pyatt in Greece. He also paid tribute to late Nikos Mouyaris.
Adam Schiff from California said we should allow Turkey to undermine the security of the Unites States and NATO and expressed concern for Turkey’s relationship with Russia, the human rights violations inside the country and its aggression against its neighbors.
Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania, noted the importance of the bipartisan approach of the EastMed bill and he announced that he cosponsors it.
Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey said that Turkey should be kept out of the F-35 program.
He criticized Erdogan for violations of the human rights and religious freedom and his policies on the Cyprus and Kurdish issues.
“We have a dictator in Ankara”, he said, recalling that every time Congress was criticizing Turkey, administration official were fearing that Turkish government will close the Incirlik Base.
Jerry Nadler said Turkey is the hands of a corrupted dictator.
“I am very glad Erdogan clarified who he is with his stance against Greece, Cyprus and Israel”, the Republican congressman from New York said.
The Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee Nita Lowey supported the partnership of Greece, Cyprus and Israel on energy and security issues. On May 31st the congresswoman from New York passed language in a bill, directing the Secretary of States to finance an annual meeting in Washington of officials from Greece, Cyprus and Israel, in the framework of the U.S. involvement with the East Med partnership.
Expressing support for the EastMed Act, Democratic congressman Chris Pappas from New Hampshire said it will develop cooperation in the region on security and energy issues.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey said the inability of the United States to stop Turkey from invading Cyprus is a stigma for the U.S. foreign policy. He supported bill 2913 saying that there is no substitute to strong U.S. presence in the Eastern Mediterranean. He was also clear that no F-35s should be given to Turkey.
He supported the EastMed Act, saying it will promote the many existing opportunities exist in the region, for cooperation in the energy and security.
Among the Senators that addressed the Conference were Jack Reed, Chris Murphy, Ed Murkey and Garry Peters. The conference honored Senator Kamala Harris – one of the leading democratic presidential candidate – and Marco Rubio from Florida. The award – presented by Senator Bob Menendez – was received on his behald by former member of Congress Iliana Ross – Letinen.
“When we pass this legislation, we will send a clear message to the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean that says “the United States of America is your friend and partner, and we are dedicated to your success””, Senator Menendez told the Conference, which he said is taking place at a hopeful and dynamic time for U.S. relations in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Speaking about his recent trip to Greece and Cyprus, he said he saw firsthand the remarkable strides made in recent years.
“We’ve seen so much progress on our defense relationships that make the citizens of Greece, Cyprus and the United States safer. So much possibility for an energy revolution in the region, which is good for Europe and the world. And so much potential for shared prosperity. All this momentum became the inspiration for my recent legislation, the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act.
As leaders across the political spectrum in Nicosia and Athens step up to the plate with bold ideas for the future, the United States should stand shoulder to shoulder with them.”
This legislation, Menendez noted, will renew our focus on this region, a region central to U.S. national security.
“It is central to European efforts to diversify its energy sources away from countries like Russia. And it is central to our mission to build stronger bonds among democracies around the world. Including countries like Greece, the author of the concept of democracy. Including countries like Cyprus, which faced an invasion in 1974, only to face another economic invasion today in the form of Turkish violations of its EEZ. And including countries like Israel, our stalwart ally and the only vibrant democracy in the Middle East.”
Menendez stressed that the EastMed bill would be necessary even if we had a perfect ally in Turkey.
“Our interests in the Eastern Mediterranean are too significant to ignore.
And as you all know, our relationship with Ankara is anything but perfect.
A perfect ally would not illegally explore for energy resources in the Cypriot EEZ, in clear violation of international law. A perfect ally would not routinely violate the airspace of Greece over the Aegean, threatening the courageous lives of Greek pilots and everyone who calls those islands home. A perfect ally would not consider purchasing a Russian S400 system and expect that they could park it next to an American F-35. A perfect ally would not occupy northern Cyprus with 40,000 troops, one of the most militarized areas in the world.”