U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Monday urged the U.S. government and the international community to hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to account for continued violations of international law and human rights abuses, among others, while addressing the U.S. Senate. He especially condemned Erdogan's threatened missile strike on Athens, Greece.
"I come to the Floor today to condemn the recent actions of the Turkish President which are not only disturbing-they are totally unacceptable,"
Menendez said, pointing out that Turkiye was threatening a NATO ally, while also deploring the Turkish president's record on democratic freedoms at home.
"A few days ago, in front of a town-hall in Northern Turkey, President Erdogan threatened a missile strike on Athens.
‘Greece is afraid of our missile. They say that the Typhoon Missile will hit Athens.’ And then he addressed the Greek people directly and said quote, ‘It will… unless you stay calm.’
This is a NATO member-directly threatening to target Athens, a city of three million civilians. According to the United Nations-an intentional attack on civilians is a war crime," the U.S. Senator said.
Menendez said that Erdogan has for years pursued repressive, anti-democratic policies at home and abroad, while commenting that "as violent as Erdogan’s tenure has been at home, his foreign policy has been absolutely awful."
He pointed to the relations between Erdogan and the Russian and Iranian leaderships, saying that this was because "he shares their worldview".
The Senator also demanded that Erdogan "end all overflights of Greece and pull every last Turkish soldier out of Cyprus," while adding that "given all of this recent behavior, the United States should not be putting F-16 fighter jets in President Erdogan’s hands.
"That is why, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I will not approve any F-16s for Turkey until he halts his campaign of aggression across the entire region," Chairman Menendez continued. "To my colleagues here in the Senate, I'll close by saying-do not be afraid to stand up for American values in the face of Erdogan’s aggression. To the international community-do not hesitate to hold Turkey accountable for violating international law. To the citizens living in the shadow of Erdogan’s Typhoon missiles-do not forget the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
And to those people in Turkey who still hope for a free, democratic future-do not give up. One day soon, with your bravery, peace and prosperity will return to your homeland."
He also noted Erdogan's threat to land Turkish forces in Greece 'suddenly one night and his repeated challenges to Greek sovereignty that he "seems to be increasing his illegal, autocratic behavior in the run-up to the elections in Turkey next year."
According to Menendez, however, these actions "fit a pattern of Turkish claims to what is Greek territory" and were not restricted to the recent threats against the capital of an ally in NATO.
He also pointed to the Turkish president's actions in Cyprus and his attempts to increase Turkiye's military presence on the island, or to illegally reopen Varosha, while he said that Erdogan "looks at Putin’s illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine and is taking note."
"But one thing is clear-the United States must take the Turkish President’s actions seriously. Those who just simply say ‘oh, well he's a lot of bluster’ - they do so at risk. They said ‘Putin was bluster’ and we have a war on the European continent. We need to hold Erdogan accountable for his behavior when he violates international laws, or challenges democratic norms, or allows his forces to commit human rights abuses," Menendez said