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Cyprus features prominently in US Congress’ Turkey report

Congress report highlights F-16 possible sale to Turkey and tensions with Greece and Cyprus

Source: CNA

The possible sale of F-16s to Turkey and tensions between Turkey and Cyprus and Greece are included in a US Congressional Research Service report on Turkey released on January 9, which outlines Biden administration support of the sale and opposition by “some members of Congress.”

In particular, the report entitled "Turkey (Turkiye): Background and U.S. Relations", features Greece and Cyprus alongside Russia, Sweden-Finland-NATO and the Middle East, as major issues which have to do with the US – Turkey relationship.

The report notes that President Biden “has voiced support for sales that would upgrade Turkey’s aging F-16 fleet, but some Members of Congress have expressed opposition.”

“Long-standing disputes between Greece and Turkey over territorial rights in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean seas have spiked in 2022 amid greater U.S. strategic cooperation with Greece and Cyprus, as well as renewed disagreements regarding Greek islands close to Turkey’s coast,” the report reads.

'Long-standing disputes between Greece and Turkey over territorial rights... have spiked in 2022 amid greater US strategic cooperation with Greece and Cyprus...'

It also gives an account of the dispute between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey about Eastern Mediterranean energy exploitation in recent years noting that it “appears to have brought Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Egypt closer together.”

It relates in detail tensions between the Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Turkey and US response.

The report further refers to the lifting of the US arms embargo against the Republic of Cyprus in September, adding that “after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in October 2022 that the United States no longer maintains a balanced approach in the Aegean, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake released a statement saying that there has been no shift in U.S. security posture to favor Turkey or Greece and that the NATO allies’ collective efforts are focused on ending Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

On relations between Israel and Turkey it notes, among other things, that “Turkish officials have expressed interest in energy cooperation with Israel. However, Israeli officials reportedly remain skeptical about prospects for a subsea Israel- Turkey natural gas pipeline.”

“While Israel has pursued greater high-level interaction with Turkey, it may be cautious about significant near-term improvements in bilateral relations, and appears to remain committed to close strategic ties with Greece and the Republic of Cyprus,” it adds. It also says it is “unclear how the expected late 2022 return of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister might affect the improvement in Turkey-Israel relations.”

The CRS report, also outlines the new position by the Biden administration in favour of selling F-16s to Turkey and the resistance this has met in Congress and in particular by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez.

“A May 2022 article interviewed some congressional committee leaders with oversight responsibilities for arms sales. Most signaled openness to considering F-16 transactions. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez remained skeptical, however, saying, “[Turkey] acts in ways that are contrary to our interests in a whole host of things. I think the administration has to stop seeing ... the aspirational part of what we would like Turkey to be and realize that Turkey is under Erdogan,” the report reads.

It adds that the State Department spokesperson said in response to questions about the status of possible F-16 sales to Turkey, among other things, that “Turkey’s desire for F-16s is something that we have discussed, including at the most senior levels, with our Turkish allies, but it’s also something that we’re discussing with the Hill.”

The report also says that “tensions between Turkey and other NATO members have fueled internal US/NATO discussions about the continued use of Turkish bases.”

“As a result of the tensions and questions about the safety and utility of Turkish territory for U.S. and NATO assets, some observers have advocated exploring alternative basing arrangements in the region,” it says.

Some reports, it adds, “suggest that expanded or potentially expanded U.S. military presences in places such as Greece, Cyprus, and Jordan might be connected with concerns about Turkey.”

According to the report in March 2022, Turkey expert and former congressional committee staff member Alan Makovsky said in a congressional hearing testimony “that while the United States should make efforts to keep Turkey in the “Western camp,” Turkish “equivocation in recent years” justifies the United States building and expanding military facilities in Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece to “hedge its bets”.”

Cyprus  |  Turkey  |  United States  |  Türkiye  |  Greece  |  Congress  |  Biden  |  Menendez  |  F16  |  Aegean  |  eastern Mediterranean

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