Top senator urges US not to put F-16s in Erdogan’s hands
Bob Menendez, a top Democratic senator and the chairman of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee called on Biden administration not to put F-16 fighter jets in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hands.
Delivering a speech on the Senate Floor over Erdogan’s recent acts and remarks which he described as not only “disturbing but totally unacceptable,” Menendez urged Washington and the international community to take concrete steps to hold Erdogan to account for his actions.
Calling for “free and fair” elections in Turkey, Menendez also addressed Turkish people during his speech.
“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 said.
“If standing up to human rights abuses makes me an enemy of Erdogan – if calling out Turkey for arming Azerbaijan and enabling the massacre of innocent Armenian civilians makes me an enemy of Erdogan – if demanding Turkey recognize Greek and Cypriot sovereignty makes me an enemy of Erdogan – then it is a badge I will wear with honor,” he said.
“As violent as Erdogan’s tenure has been at home, his foreign policy has been absolutely awful,” Menendez said. Menendez said for years, Erdogan has pursued “repressive, anti-democratic policies” at home and abroad.
“From criminalizing insults of Turkey and freedom of expression to the suppression of dissent and political opposition figures, Erdogan has jailed and silenced so many pro-democracy and human rights activists that at one point there were more lawyers and journalists in Turkish jails than anywhere else in the world,” he said.
Menendez also accused Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of continuing to try to “hide the truth about the Armenian Genocide.”
“On the eve of Baku’s War in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey sold Azerbaijan 77 million dollars of military equipment that was used to attack innocent Armenians,” he said.
Denouncing Erdogan’s ties with the Russian and Iranian presidents who he described as “some of the world’s most brutal dictators,” “Just look at the leaders that he collaborates with. It’s because he shares their worldview. And you can see this clearly in the way he approaches the region,” Menendez said.
Blaming Erdogan of “stoking division” in Cyprus, “Clearly Erdogan looks at Putin’s illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine and is taking note,” Menendez said.
“And that’s what makes President Erdogan’s recent comments about launching missile attacks on Greece so disconcerting. His threats to strike Athens fit a pattern of Turkish claims to what is Greek territory,” he said.
Condemning Erdogan’s threatening a missile strike on Athens, Menendez urged Turkish president “to end all overflights of Greece and pull every last Turkish soldier out of Cyprus.”
Commenting on Turkey’s signalling a ground operation into Northern Syria, Menendez urged all US allies to use their leverage to try and prevent further incursions into the region.
Menendez said Erdogan seems to be increasing his “illegal, autocratic behavior” ahead of Turkey’s elections scheduled for next year.
“He’s been out for revenge at home too,” he said, pointing out a Turkish court's decision of sentencing Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to prison.
“The charge? Insulting members of the Supreme Electoral Council. That would be the equivalent of an American being put in jail for two and a half years for insulting some state electoral commission or the Federal Election Commission or any entity as such,” Menendez said.
“Erdogan might be using this aggression and repression as a diversion no doubt from the dire failure of his own economy. He might be doing it out of spite. Or he might be doing it because he is a thug,” he said.
“But one thing is clear—the United States must take the Turkish President’s actions seriously,” Menendez said.
“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. And that’s why I’m calling for free and fair elections in Turkey,” he said.
“And I think, 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,” Menendez said.
Menendez called on all US senators of not being afraid to stand up for American values “in the face of Erdogan’s aggression,” and the international community to not “hesitate to hold Turkey accountable for violating international law”.