US Senator and member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez arrived in Athens on Monday for a series of meetings with the political leadership. Menendez is the American politician who pushed the US Senate to block the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and the co-architect of East Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019. It is Menendez’s support of Greek and Cypriot positions that opened the way for the Greek Presidential Manor.
Menendez was received by the president of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos who praised the Senator’s stance and positions on Greece and Cyprus. These positions contribute to establishing peace and stability in the surrounding region, especially in the troubled areas of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, the President said during their meeting.
The US official highlighted the importance of relations between the US and Greece and noted that these were now “stronger than ever before,” having deepened in the recent period and become very important for both countries.
Menendez said that Greece is a very strong and important ally for the US in the context of NATO and an ally that has met its commitments, as he would like to see other allies do as well. “Additionally, there is the excellent and very important bilateral relationship. I would like to thank you for everything that you offer us in Souda (military base) as well as for the relations we have in the sector of security. I would also want to add that there is a very significant Greek diaspora in US, which returns and invest in its motherland,” he said among others.
Menendez also had a meeting with Defense Minister Evaggelos Apostolakis where the two men discussed bilateral relations in the Eastern Mediterranean and the security environment in the Middle East.
Apostolakis noted that their meeting was a great opportunity “for us to present to you our views on US-Greece’s cooperation in defense, which is becoming ever more important.”
“This meeting coincides with your recent initiative referring to the draft law on security and energy cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean in 2019. It is very important for us as it is your first visit to Greece,” concluded Apostolakis.
U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Marko Rubio recently introduced the bipartisan legislation “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019”. According to a committee announcement, this would:
-Require the Administration to submit to Congress a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, as well as reports on malign activities by Russia and other countries in the region (including Turkish violations of Greek air space and Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone);
-Lift the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus;
-Impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, as long as Turkey continues with plans to purchase the S-400 air defence system from the Russian Federation, a purchase that would be sanctionable under U.S. law;
-Authorize the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus;
-Authorize 3,000,000 US dollars in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece;
-Authorize 2,000,000 US dollars for International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and 2,000,000 US dollars for Cyprus.
In an exclusive interview with kathimerini, Menendez said that the United States will impose sanctions on Turkey and freeze the delivery of American-made F-35 fighter jets if the country proceeds with the acquisition and deployment of the Russian S-400 missile defense system.
Turkey has no chance that it gets both the F-35 and the S-400,” he said.