Turkey, Politics, Americas

US: Legislation bypassing Turkey passes Senate hurdle

E.Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act gives short shrift to Turkey's strategic importance and alliance with US

Vakkas Dogantekin   | 26.06.2019
US: Legislation bypassing Turkey passes Senate hurdle


Legislation giving short shrift to Turkey’s strategic importance in the eastern Mediterranean and its longstanding alliance with Washington has passed a key U.S. Senate hurdle.

Sponsored by Democrat Bob Menendez, the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act says it intends to "update the United States’ strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean to meet new challenges and opportunities."

But in championing the legislation, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Menendez said “Israel, Greece, and [Greek] Cyprus are key partners of the United States," forgetting and ignoring the U.S.’ over six-decade strategic alliance with Turkey in the NATO bloc.

The legislation would pave the way for the U.S. to "fully support the trilateral partnership of Israel, Greece, and [Greek] Cyprus through energy and defense cooperation initiatives—including by lifting the prohibition on arms transfers to the Republic of [Greek] Cyprus," said Menendez’s statement.

The controversial legislation, which spurns Turkey's sovereign rights to resources in the region, could further escalate tension between Washington and Ankara at a time when Turkish officials have already said they will not allow unilateral and arbitrary activities in its region.

Turkey says its hydrocarbon drilling activities, a recent source of tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, are based on its legitimate rights stemming from international law.

Rights to resources

Turkey has consistently contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying the Turkish Cypriots who have lived on the island of Cyprus for hundreds of years also have rights to the natural resources of the area.

Two Turkish-flagged drill ships, the Fatih and the Yavuz, launched offshore drilling operations this year in an area 75 kilometers (42 nautical miles) off the island’s western coast.

The area falls entirely within the Turkish continental shelf registered with the UN and under permit licenses the Turkish government in previous years granted to the Turkish Petroleum Corporation, the country's national oil company.

Turkey wants energy to serve as an incentive for a political resolution on the island and peace in the wider Mediterranean basin rather than a catalyst for further tensions.

In 1974, following a coup aimed at Cyprus’ annexation by Greece, and a campaign of ethnic violence against the island’s Turkish population, Ankara intervened as a guarantor power.

In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), less than 150 miles from the Turkish coast, was founded on one of the most militarized islands in the world.

To this day Turkey has some 30,000 troops stationed on the island protecting the lives and rights of the Turkish Cypriots.

Several attempts to resolve the disputes on the island have ended in failure due to Greek Cyprus’ unilateral approach to the problems on international platforms.

The latest, held with the participation of the guarantor countries -- Turkey, Greece, and the U.K. -- ended in 2017 in Switzerland.

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