Washington, D.C. (ERT/Lena Argiri)
In an exclusive interview with ranking member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, Greek National Television (ERT) Washington correspondent Lena Argiri discusses the democratic Senator’s letter to National Security Advisor ‘Obrien (page 40), the resumption of the exploratory talks between Greece and Turkey and Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Greece.
Why did you send this letter to the White House asking for all the internal documents that have to do with the relationship between President Trump and President Erdogan. What were the red flags.
There have been many red flags accruing, first of all we see the remarks the president himself made about his affinity and his relationship with Erdogan. The way in which Halkbank was treated, the suggestion that somehow the US would not pursue Halkbank as per US law is deeply troublesome. The fact that President Trump will not sanction Turkey for violation of US law under CAATSA for the purchase of the S400 is deeply troubling. Then you read some of the comments and some of the latest books that have come out and you look at all of these elements and you say we need to know here because it is about US national interest, US national security interest and those of our allies in the region.
You are giving the White House a deadline. They have to submit these documents by the end of September. Are they obliged to provide these documents? And did you have any feed back about their intentions.
I haven’t gotten any feedback yet. We expect fully, that they will comply by September 30. The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee has oversight over foreign policy, Congress has an oversight role over foreign policy. This is about what is happening as it relates to US foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and vis a vis the US and Turkey and I expect them fully to comply.
You note in your letter that the President’s approach makes Erdogan stronger. Do you think that, this might be one of the reasons why Turkey is playing too close to the edge with Greece and Cyprus?
I am convinced that Erdogan will push the limits because he sees no consequences, when he purchases the S400 in violation of US law and counter to the interest of NATO of which it is a member he gets a message that without any sanctions it is ok to do. When he violates international law and intersits in the territorial waters of Greece and Cyprus and there is no push back, no consequences, no sanctions, he gets the message that it is ok to do. When he is in the midst of having a military engagement in Libya and nothing happens he gets the message it is ok to do. So the lack of the strong US response here is clearly giving Erdogan a green light “go ahead” because maybe maybe we will criticize but we will not do anything more.
Talking about a strong US response, reportedly the President asked Erdogan in the midst of the summer crisis in the East Med to back off, He didn’t do it, he backed off a month or so later and for different reasons, why do you think he chose to ignore the US President.
I think Erdogan ignored the US and President Trump because if you have a bark but no bite then at the end of the day there is no consequence, you have gotten very clear messages here S400, Turkey violating a US law, supposedly a NATO ally violating the interoperability provisions of NATO, no consequences. Halkbank, don’t worry about it we are gonna take care of it, no consequences. East Med interferences, no consequence. It is a very clear message that Erdogan is getting so probably when he was told this by Trump, he probably said he is not going to do anything about it, I am going to continue and that is what he did.
Are you optimistic about the exploratory talks that will begin shortly between Greece and Turkey.
I certainly hope so, I Know that in my conversations in the past with PM Mitsotakis that in fact he has a desire to live in peace with his neighbors from Turkey, but he also obviously is very firm about standing up for the sovereign rights of Greece. So it is my hope that such an engagement will produce a positive result, there is no reason for Turkey to be wavering the saber of military engagement or violations of international law, I hope so.
Secretary Pompeo will be in Greece soon, what message does this visit send to Turkey and what it means in general for the US-Greek relations?
I am glad to see that secretary Pompeo is following up under the law that I helped pass the East Med Act, there are several elements of that, the lifting of the arms embargo against Cyprus that the law call for, I am glad to see they did that. I am glad to see that we are upping our engagement with Greece particularly as it relates to our strategic mutual defense interest, I am glad to see that. Anything we can do on energy in the region to be a catalyst for the development of the energy that can be an economic boon for Greece and Cyprus but also a diversifier for Europe to get away from Russia as the main supplier of energy is a good thing but these are all instigated by the EasteMed Act that the Congress passed and we signed into law.