I come to the floor today, to talk about the United States’ relationship with Turkey, and certain actions that the United States must consider, in order to protect our National Security interests and those of our true allies in the region. Today more than ever, we need strong allies and partners in Europe. As the Trump Administration does nearly everything in its power to erode our alliances and denigrate our closest friends, We find increasingly emboldened regimes in Russia and China. The U.S. Cannot stand up to them alone.
Throughout the Cold War, our diplomats worked assiduously to build strong bonds with our allies knowing that having close Partners was Better than having enemies on the world stage. Our strongest allies should be those In NATO, those who have made a treaty commitment to Mutual defense, those who share our values, those who work in concert with us to face the threat from countries like Russia and Iran with a common cause. Unfortunately, Turkey under Erdogan embodies None of those things.
Today I’d like to layout a fact pattern that so many of my colleagues have come to see in recent weeks that turkey Under Erdogan should not, turkey under Erdogan cannot be seen as an ally. How many more times do we need to see turkey betrayed the values upon which NATO was established? How many times do we need to see President Erdogan Visit Moscow Sochi or any other Russian city to kiss Putin’s ring? How many more journalists need to be locked up by Erdogan before we stop calling turkey a democracy.
Mr. President enough is enough. Over my 27 years in the house and the Senate, I have followed developments in the Eastern Mediterranean quite closely. Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974 was a shocking attempt to redraw borders in Europe in the wake of World War Two, and to this day, Turkey’s invasion of North Cyprus must be seen for what it is, and illegal occupation that must end. Turkeys actions over Those days in 1974 were not the actions of a democratic country, they were not the actions of a reliable Ally, they were not the actions of a responsible actor on the world stage. But the events of 1974 would only presage Turkeys aggressive posture in the Eastern Mediterranean in the years to come.
To this day Turkey under Erdogan continues to aggressively bully International Energy companies, including U.S. companies and the Republic of Cyprus. Their sin conducting completely legitimate exploration in the Cypriot Exclusive economic zone.
This is not territory under dispute, This is not an issue for debate, Turkey’s hostilities towards these companies as the kind of gunboat diplomacy that belongs to errors past and it has no place in today’s world. examples abound with turkey continues to operate in bad faith when it comes to Cyprus. It could abide by UN Security Council resolutions to transfer the fenced area of Verocha Famagusta to the administration of the United Nations․
These calls to return this area to its original inhabitants which turkey ejected during the 1974 Invasion, have gone unheeded. instead, several Turkish ministers have recently visited and threatened to move forward with commercial development a true affront to those forced from their land more than 40 years ago, as well as to the UN Security Council resolution.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, for years Turkey has also aggressively violated the airspace of neighboring Greece, also A NATO Ally. These dangerous maneuvers have threatened the lives and safety of Greek Pilots as well as civilians living on the Islands below. Greece wants a good neighbor in Turkey and has sought to find common ground upon a constructive relationship. But with these airspace violations, Turkey has shown it’s true colors and the International Community must come to terms with this.
We have seen Turkeys belligerents abroad manifest itself, even here in the United States. Who can forget when President Erdogan’s bodyguards attacked US citizens in a Washington Park peacefully demonstrating as Is their constitutional right?
And as momentum bills following the passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution in the House of Representatives, Turkey and its lobbyists are working overtime to block it in the Senate. Because they know if this resolution, which both I, Senator Cruz, and bipartisan members on both sides have sponsored were to come to the floor for a vote, it would pass resoundingly, and send a Clarion message that recognizes the truth. The Armenian Genocide happened, It was a monstrous act and those who deny it, are complicit in a terrible lie, genocide is genocide. The Senate should not bow to this pressure,it cannot bow to this pressure. Let’s pass this resolution today.
Erdogan’s Behavior abroad has roots inside of Turkey, with a democratic process that has significantly eroded and religious freedom is under sustained pressure. in particular, the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew of the Greek Orthodox church and its community faces dire consequences as the spiritual head of the world’s second-largest Christian Church, his church properties have been confiscated and president Erdogan restricts his religious freedom. This is wrong and his all Holiness deserves our attention and our ongoing support for those who speak about religious freedom in this chamber and I admire many who have as well as on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, this is also an issue of religious freedom.
Of course, Erdogans’s repression of his own citizens does not stop with restricting religious freedom. Following its emergency decree after a failed coup attempt, Turkish authorities engaged in a Draconian Crackdown, and Roundup of Citizens across the country. the UN reports that close to a hundred and sixty thousand people were arrested in an 18-month period including over a hundred women who were pregnant or had just given birth often on grounds of nothing more that they were associated with their husbands many of whom were Suspects on trumped-up charges.As we examine Turkey increasingly destructive role in the world, We have never turned a blind eye from those Turkish citizens who want a more democratic future for themselves and their families.
Mr. President in July the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed my Eastern Mediterranean security and energy Partnership Act, with a strong bipartisan vote. We’re working for full passage here in the Senate and I understand that the House Foreign Affairs Committee will mark up the legislation soon.
I traveled to Greece and Cyprus in the spring and told leaders in both places that this was not an Anti turkey Bill and that we all wanted Turkey to be a constructive and Democratic partner in the region. at the time this Vision seemed a long way off, but now given Erdogan is recent choice It has become virtually impossible. Let’s review events since my visit to the region in the spring of this year.
First, Erdogan took delivery of the S400 system, air defense system, from Russia. Let me repeat, Turkey, a supposed NATO Ally purchase an air defense system from NATO’s Main adversary, The reason that NATO largely came to be. this Choice endangered the security of the United States and other NATO Partners. The U.S. Made a good offer of the Patriot missile system, an offer that would have maintained the security equilibrium in the region, and enabled turkey to remain a NATO member in good standing. That offer was rejected. the Trump Administration did the right thing in removing Turkey from the F-35 program. It was clear to all involved that the S400 could not be parked next to an F-35, After all, it’s meant and it’s intended to be able to shoot down an F-35, this from a NATO Ally.
But the Administration has fallen well short of its obligations under the law, under the CAATSA law, which I helped write. The administration is required to sanction any entity that conducts a significant transaction with the Russian military or intelligence sectors. The provision of the law is not permissive, It is not optional. under no credible definition would the purchase of the S400 Russian system, Not be considered significant.
The administration is breaking the law By ignoring this provision and kowtowing to Ankara. according to US law, turkey must be sanctioned for the S400 system and it should happen today. Otherwise, it will send a global message that we are not serious about sanctioning significant transactions with the Russian military. Some have said that such an approach is unwarranted and unwise less we push Erdogan into Putin’s arms. Mr. President, He’s already there. He clearly is already there.
In a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Syria, I held up this poster, and I asked the secretary of state, what’s wrong with this picture? I argued that this is a picture of president Erdogan, President Putin and President Rouhani of Iran, that says everything. Two of our biggest foreign policy challenges and who’s there with them? Erdogan.
I argued that we were seeding American leadership in Syria, and the region, to leaders and countries whose policies were intrinsically at odds with our own. Unfortunately today We are seeing the terrible consequences of this abdication of leadership. Erdogan’s warm relationship with Putin should ring alarm Bells across the NATO alliance, raising concerns about NATO’s exposure at Interlink and intelligence vulnerabilities with respect to the alliance’s presence in Turkey. It raises concerns about how Erdogan and Putin may be working together to count the US interest across the middle east in the Balkans and around the world.
NATO is an alliance of shared values. None of those values are respected. None of them, by the current occupant of the Kremlin or in Ankara.
Second, provided with a green light from the Trump Administration president Erdogan’s invasion of Syria to attack our Kurdish Partners is an unconscionable act of brutality that has caused death and untold suffering among our Kurdish friends and partners. tens of thousands have fled the area creating an even greater problem of refugees in that war-torn region. the consequences of these actions by turkey and it’s proxies will persist for years to come. Turkey’s incursion poses a direct threat to US National Security interests in the region, not the least of which is by facilitating Russian foreign policy ambitions in the region, and opening the doOr for Isis to reconstitute.
As an inception, Turkey Did not take the threat of Isis seriously enough, and in the early days, Isis’ ability to easily Traverse the Turkish-Syrian Border, bolstered its ability to grow in strength in numbers. Turkey did nothing to stop them, did nothing to stop foreign Fighters going into Syria.
And while Turkey has legitimate security concerns from the PKK its singular focus on extending this feed to the whole Kurdish population, is its ability to effectively confront other terrorist organizations including Isis and Al-Qaeda. there must be a full accounting by Turkey of these atrocities. That is why I am today introducing an expedited resolution of requests for the Secretary of State to inform the senate in 30 days of the extent of Turkey human rights abuses in Syria. this resolution invokes statutory Authority Under the foreign assistance act, to require the Secretary of State to assess and report to Congress on Turkey’s human rights abuses in Syria.
The resolution calls for the administration to provide all available information, Concerning alleged violations of internationally recognized human rights by Turkey, its armed forces, and Associated groups in Syria. It calls for a description of the steps The US has taken to promote Turkey’s respect for Human Rights and in its Syria operations.
Tthe resolution also calls for a determination of what Turkey’s actions have resulted in the release of Isis or other extremists inside of Syria. I’m also working closely with the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Risch on promoting American National Security and preventing the Resurgence of Isis Act of 2019. Which would impose targetted sanctions on turkey for its actions in Syria.
A similar bipartisan measure passed the house last week and I urge the Senate to deliberate on the measure. based on changing circumstances on the ground, We are updating the language to condition sanctions based on Turkey’s actions, and I hope that it will be marked up in the coming days.
Mr. President, for years the World Held out hope that Turkey would be the bridge between East and West. A democratic secular country That could be a democracy in Europe and a responsible actor in the world stage. I for one was always skeptical but certainly supported the sentiment. Today We are the farthest from that dream that we’ve ever been .the most imprisoned journalists in the world, in the world, are not in North Korea, They are not in Russia, They are not in Iran, They languish in Turkish prisons. This doesn’t happen in a democracy.
As International pressure mounted following turkey’s invasion of Northern Syria, Erdogan threatened to unleash thousands of refugees on to the European Union Shores, a wave-like we saw in 2015. These aren’t the statements of a rational responsible actor. yet Where is US policy? The Trump Administration was its normal erratic self in recent weeks as it flails from sanctions on Turkey to claiming victory. And the Kurds are the ones who emerged as the clear loser.
Erdogan was eager to sign onto the Pence Pompeo plan because it gave all That he wanted full control of the Kurdish areas of Syria and carte blanche to wipe out swathes of the community.
In addition to claiming Victory President Trump now wants to invite Erdogan to Washington with open arms. Stunning, the photo of Trump and Erdogan and the Oval Office will not only be the nail in the coffin for any Kurdish aspirations to live in peace and security, It will also be the death knell for any ability of the U.S. Hopes to maintain with any combat partners In the future. so president trump I urge you to cancel this invitation and side with the bipartisan consensus in the Senate and the house, that Turkey under Erdogan is no friend to the United States.
Do not ruin our reputation further by fawning over yet another authoritarian leader. Do you want to repair the damage that’s been done? show our commitment to our allies by inviting the Syrian and Kurdish leadership to the Oval Office for a meeting on how we prevent a Resurgence of Isis. That’s how you protect our interests. That’s how you protect our national security. It’s time to challenge Erdogan to live up to NATO’s values and to respect the international order. It’s time to stop enabling turkey to be a bad actor.