US official says Turkish actions ‘unhelpful’ but Wasington cannot prejudge sanctions

US official says Turkish actions ‘unhelpful’ but Wasington cannot prejudge sanctions

A US official has criticized Turkey’s policy in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean, while voicing concerns that tensions in the region complicate NATO's efforts to present a united front in the face of Russia’s destabilizing activities.

Phil Reeker, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, wrote a letter to the American Hellenic Institute in response to AHI president’s letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month.

“We have conveyed to Turkey repeatedly that its overflights of Greek territory, its drilling activities in the waters off Cyprus, its signing of a maritime delimitation MOU with Libya, and its stated intent to explore for hydrocarbons on the basis of that MOU are provocative, unhelpful, and raise tensions in the region,” Reeker wrote on behalf of Pompeo.

AHI president Nick Larigakis had written to Pompeo in late June expressing the group’s “grave concern” over Turkish actions in the region.

“I write to reiterate our grave concern about Turkey’s demonstrated willingness to cause instability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the broader region to the detriment of US interests,” Larigakis said.

Reeker wrote in his response that the US administration was deeply concerned over heightened tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular between NATO allies Greece and Turkey.

“These tensions complicate NATO’s efforts to present a united front in the face of Russia’s destabilizing activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and pose a risk of unintended escalation. Our objective is to support Allied unity in NATO, de-escalate tensions, and ensure that lines of communication remain open,” the US diplomat wrote.

While Reeker pointed to further collaboration with Greece and the Republic of Cyprus, he also said Washington continued to “object strenuously” to Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile systems, while also pointing to a serious response by suspending Ankara from the F-35 program. Turkey’s removal from the F-35 program is currently pending.

But the US official also acknowledged that despite challenges in Washington-Ankara bilateral relations, “Turkey remains an important NATO Ally, and we will continue working with Turkey on areas of mutual interest and addressing issues of mutual concern.”

Larigakis also drew attention to Washington’s approach towards Turkey, saying “there is no longer any point in placing Turkey within the Morgenthau-Kissinger context in which nations pursue their national economic and political self-interests.”

The AHI president also described Turkey’s “Blue Homeland doctrine” as contrary to US and NATO interests, while he also called on all available sanctions to be imposed on Ankara “not to influence its behavior, but to neutralize and contain its actions.”

“Secretary Pompeo takes his responsibilities under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) seriously and fully intends to comply with the law. The Department cannot pre-judge sanctions decisions or preview a timeline for a determination specific to this transaction,” Reeker said. [Kathimerini Cyprus English Edition]

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