Thursday, 22 February 2018

US Must Halt F-35 Sales to Turkey Over ‘Dangerous’ Provocations

US Must Halt F-35 Sales to Turkey Over ‘Dangerous’ Provocations - Greek LobbyCC0

A Greek-American lobbying organization and the Armenian National Committee of America have launched an effort to halt the sale of 100 F-35 aircraft to Washington’s NATO ally Turkey over Ankara’s “consistently and steadily more dangerous” provocations, a Greek-American lobbyist said recently.

"We have gone beyond the over-the-top rhetoric used by Turkey, which seems to want to compete with North Korea for most provocative declarations: Its actions in the Aegean [Sea], its formal action in terms of navtexes (navigational text messages) and notams (notices to airmen) and its deploying naval forces against energy exploration in Cyprus' exclusive economic zone are inviting an escalation that might make the 1996 Imia crisis look tame," Endy Zemenidis, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council, told the Greek publication Kathimerini on Tuesday.

Zemenidis referred to a crisis in 1996 in which Turkey and Greece nearly engaged in a military conflict over a territorial dispute about a pair of uninhabited islands in the Aegean Sea, which mostly separates the two countries.

Congress has already shown a willingness to halt arms deliveries to Turkey. The US Senate voted to block a $1.2 million deal to sell Turkey semi-automatic handguns and ammunition last September following the assault of US protesters and police officers by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail during a visit to Washington last May.

"There will be very strong opposition in Congress — which already acted against small arms sales to Turkish security forces — and in which measures challenging the F-35 transfer have been circulated," the lobbyist said, noting that Turkey's opponents in Washington are "growing in numbers" while "Congressmen willing to defend Turkey are in pretty short supply nowadays."

"Turkey has been an unreliable ally," Zemenidis added. "Turkey was ambivalent in fighting ISIS [Daesh], which forced the US to seek other allies. When the Kurds emerged as the most effective anti-ISIS allies, Turkey took military action against them. Right now, the US cannot ignore that its weapons are being used by a nominal ally to undermine its strategic goals and interests."

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