New York.- (GreekNewsOnline)
In a podcast interview for the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), Joe Biden senior advisor Dr. Michael Carpenter discussed Joe Biden’s statement on tensions between Greece and Turkey, the US-Turkey relationship, Nagorno Karabakh, Cyprus and Varosha, and HagiaSophia.
The interview is as follows:
Question: Greek-Americans have welcomed Vice President Biden’s statement on the Eastern Mediterranean – especially since President Trump has not said anything on the subject.
In a bit of a departure from Secretary Pompeo’s State Department – and to be fair, President Obama’s State Department – this statement did not use the “all parties must refrain from provocations” language, which does not reflect that it is always and only Turkey provoking. Instead, Vice President Biden calls out Turkey directly.
As we face the prospect of a potential inter-NATO conflict, why won’t the Administration call out Turkey and why does VP Biden think it is important to specifically identify Turkey as the party to be pressed?
Michael Carpenter: “Thanks for the question. It’s important to call out Turkey because Turkey is the one that is provoking these incidents. Turkey is the one that is acting outside of the bounds of international law and taking aggressive actions in the Aegean as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean.
So, you gotta call a spade a spade. You know, moral equivocation sometimes works for the diplomatic speak that the State Department likes to use, but if you want to be clear, if you want to identify what the obstacle to progress is, you have to be able to call it out. That’s what Vice President Biden did in his statement by citing Turkey as the party that needs to give space for diplomacy to succeed. It’s not enough just to call on the two sides to engage in diplomacy and to de-escalate. You have to identify what the obstacles are.
As for the Trump administration, Trump is usually able to say what is on his mind. So he is not bound by diplomatic niceties. But obviously his cozy relationship with President Erdogan of Turkey has gotten the better of him, because he has refrained from criticizing Erdogan on just about any major policy issue during his 3 and a half, almost 4 years, as President. So, one has to imagine that it’s Trump’s business dealings in Turkey, his real estate in Istanbul, that is behind this cozy relationship. And it’s also worth noting that the two leaders seem to have a very similar style in terms of how they communicate; how they talk about the deep state; how they talk about media as enemies of the people. There’s a lot of rhetoric from the two leaders that is very, very strikingly similar if you think about it.”
Question: This specific call out of Turkey is something that we’ve heard from the Biden camp several times over the last few months – first there was the Vice President’s video interview with the New York Times Editorial Board, then his statement on Artsakh – Nagorno-Karabakh — and the destabilizing role Turkey is playing there. Do you think Turkey is capitalizing on the US being Missing In Action in the Caucusus, Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East? In the case of Artsakh, how do we stop the worst case scenario since both Turkey and Azerbaijan are rejecting calls for peace?
Michael Carpenter: “Yeah, well once again, with his statement on Nagorno-Karabakh, Vice President Biden identified Turkey as a player that is not contributing to de-escalation, and he mentioned Turkey by name. You have to, because they are engaging in very bellicose rhetoric when it comes to the conflict.
The conflict is really a tinderbox. I used to be an advisor to the US Minsk Group co-chair, and I know that these negotiations are always on a knife’s edge. The situation is very unstable. What you want to be doing now is de-escalating the situation, not as Turkey is doing, inflaming tensions.
But what’s really striking about Nagorno-Karabakh is, as I said, the US is a co-chair to the negotiation with France and Russia. But the US is totally absent. Pompeo, to my knowledge, has not made any call to the leader of Azerbaijan, to the leader of Armenia, or to President Erdogan to say “cool it, stay out of this conflict.” He has relegated most of the diplomacy to the deputy secretary of state, or to a very low ranking diplomat who is charged with dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations. That’s not what you ought to be doing when a war is on the verge of breaking out in the South Caucasus, which is a very strategic region for the United States.
This administration, including both President Trump and – I’m sad to say – Secretary Pompeo, is absent. They are missing from the diplomatic push to de-escalate the tensions there.”
Question: As if we needed yet another flashpoint involving Turkey, it announced that it was going to open the ghost town of Varosha – which is the beach area of occupied Famagusta in Cyprus. This is in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions, and certainly undermines the UN Secretary-General’s plans to kickstart new efforts on Cyprus reunification at the end of this month. Vice President Biden was very active in the last round of Cyprus negotiations, and specifically tried to get some movement on the issue of Famagusta. What do you think this move means for tensions on Cyprus and in the Eastern Mediterranean?
Michael Carpenter: “Well, you know, once again, Famagusta was the hope that we had for building confidence between the sides that would gradually lead to the possibility of a resolution that would see us creating a bizonal bicommunal federation. Yet, this is precisely where Turkey seeks to ratchet up tensions, not to mention of course its activity in the Cypriot EEZ. And I don’t see any reason for it other than to deliberately provoke conflict. And so, once again, there is only one country that recognizes northern Cyprus, and that’s Turkey.
According to international law, what Turkey is doing is illegal. We’ve got to follow UN Security Council resolutions, we’ve got to ask Tukey to refrain from its provocative actions. Because I do think that the underlying dynamic is one where we could see progress. I think the leaders in the north and in Cyprus want to be able to achieve a resolution, and with the right diplomatic incentives I think we can get them to yes. But the problem is we have to push back on this obstructive behavior from Turkey, which is getting in the way. And if I read the conclusions of the last set of negotiations correctly, at the end of the day the two sides were awfully close to a resolution, but once again it was the Turks that stepped in and said no.
So I think it’s going to take the US playing a much heavier role with regards to Turkey, and insisting that it stay out of provocative actions that get in the way of a resolution. And I hope the next administration, if it’s a Biden administration, puts Cyprus at the forefront of our efforts for peacebuilding in the region because there is hope there despite everything that is happening.”
Question: There are reports that Turkey activated its S400s – and even tracked Greek F16s with them. Today, there has been coverage of Turkey moving S400s batteries to a location on the Black Sea for an upcoming test. You have been critical on this Podcast before of Turkey’s S400 purchase. What will a test mean for US-Turkey relations?
Michael Carpenter: “Only negative things. The S-400, people have to understand, it’s not just that Turkey bought Russian air defense equipment. That’s not a good look for a NATO ally to be working with Russia, to be buying equipment from Russia. What folks have to understand is the S-400 collects intelligence using its algorithms on flights by NATO aircraft like the F-16. So we’ve got a NATO ally that is potentially giving Russia access to algorithms on our airplanes. That’s not good. That can’t be allowed to stand.
Frankly, the US-Turkey relationship will not be able to improve until the S-400s issue is put behind us. Turkey has to either return the S-400s, or mothball them – lock them up and toss out the key – because we can’t have them at odds with us in terms of our military activity. That is the activity of an opponent, not the activity of an ally.”
Question: Finally, the Vice President called on President Erdogan to reverse his decision on Hagia Sophia. Again, why do you think President Trump is silent on this particular issue, and why has no Administration official taken the same position as Vice President Biden, instead merely calling for “access for all”?
Michael Carpenter: “Once again, I’ve got to speculate. I don’t know for sure what Trump’s motivation is. Frankly I don’t know if Trump has heard of the Hagia Sophia. But if he has, I suspect his advisers are telling him not to speak out on this issue because he doesn’t want to upset his friend Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It’s a clear issue where we had a workable solution where Hagia Sophia was a museum for all these years. No faith was privileged, and all faiths could pray there, and could enjoy this architectural marvel. And a religious site, an important holy site for so many different faiths.
Now, by declaring it a mosque, President Erdogan has again undertaken a provocative action, undermined the status quo that existed for decades and decades, and he’s got to be called out for this type of behavior.
It should revert to its previous status as a museum, so all faiths have access and so no faith has privileged with regard to this particular civilizational marvel.”