U.S. Senator Menendez calls for sanctions against Turkey over East Med moves

U.S. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez has called for sanctions to be imposed on Turkey over what he called Ankara’s escalating aggression in the eastern Mediterranean “in a way that threatens U.S. interests,” Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Tuesday.

Menendez penned on Monday a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying Turkey had gone too far by drilling off the divided island of Cyprus and was threatening regional stability by turning up its aggression against Greece and Cyprus, it said.

Over the past year, tensions have intensified between Turkey and Cyprus over exploration for natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey has sent two drillships to seas after Cyprus after the EU member began its own exploration. Nicosia responded by seeking the support of other EU countries against what it terms illegal Turkish activities, prompting the EU to impose sanctions.

Menendez also pointed to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system from Russia as part of its “pattern of destabilizing behavior,” Kathimerini said.

“Applying a different standard to Turkey based on the personal affinity that [US] President [Donald] Trump apparently feels for President Erdogan is no way to conduct foreign policy,” Menendez wrote. 

Turkey received its first shipment of S-400s in July of last year, in a move that has soured relations with its NATO allies, who say the Russian-built hardware could lead to subterfuge against advanced NATO weaponry.

The United States has repeatedly threatened Turkey with sanctions over the deal with critics accusing Washington of foot-dragging on the matter.