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Politics

Florida Congressmen Push Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership

July 9, 2019 - 7:30am
Ted Deutch, Gus Bilirakis
Ted Deutch, Gus Bilirakis

Following a visit to the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean,  two Florida congressmen are pushing their proposal to build closer ties with Israel, Greece and Cyprus.

Back in May, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, teamed up with U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., and U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, D-RI, to bring out the “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act."

The bill would end the ban on arms sales to Cyprus and  create the United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to “facilitate energy cooperation" between the countries; send $3 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Greece; send $2 million to Greece and another $2 million for Cyprus in International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance; and “impede the transfer of F-35 aircraft to Turkey, as long as Turkey continues with plans to purchase the S-400 air defense system from the Russian Federation, a purchase that would be sanctionable under U.S. law; and 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.”

"As a cochair of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, I've been proud to promote in Congress the growing partnership between these eastern Mediterranean countries," said Deutch when he brought out the proposal back in May. "The trilateral relationship between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel has been expanding in recent years to cover new energy pursuits, economic opportunities, and security cooperation. With this legislation, the United States will deepen our support for this regional partnership which furthers our own geopolitical interests."

“The Greece-Cyprus-Israel partnership offers a new example of cooperation in an increasingly turbulent eastern Mediterranean region. The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act will enable the U.S. to support this developing trilateral relationship through energy and defense cooperation and further its potential. By strengthening this partnership, we can promote stability within the region and maximize the mutually beneficial benefits for all parties,” said Bilirakis.

Deutch, Bilirakis and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., were part of a congressional group which toured Israel, Qatar, Cyprus and Greece last week and earlier this week. 

When they were in Cyprus, the representatives met with key leaders including Minister of Defense Savvas Angelides, Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry, and Tourism Georgios Lakkotrypis and National Security Advisor Kyriacos Kouros  about a host of issues ranging from energy to continued tensions with Turkey. 

On Monday, Deutch weighed in on the meetings and his and Bilirakis’ continued efforts to push their legislation. 

“In recent years, the relationship between Cyprus and the United States has grown increasingly close. I was proud to lead a bipartisan delegation to Cyprus and meet with senior Cypriot leaders to express my support for improved bilateral ties and efforts to develop energy deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Deutch said. 

“We also visited Naval Support Activity Souda Bay. This visit allowed us to express support for our strong military and political relationships with Greece and the operations of a base that is vital to both U.S. and NATO naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea,” Deutch added. “As a co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, I introduced legislation in May to promote the expanding trilateral relationship between Greece, Cyprus, and Israel. During my visits to both Cyprus and Greece, I encouraged efforts to further strengthen these regional partnerships that advance U.S. geopolitical interests.

“Greece is the birthplace of democracy. I would like to congratulate the Greek people on their recent elections and Prime Minister Mitsotakis on his victory. I look forward to working with him to advance U.S.-Greece relations,” he concluded. 

Deutch and Bilirakis aren’t the only members of the Florida delegation championing the proposal. Back in April, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, paired up with U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, to bring out the Senate version of the proposal. 

“The legislation would allow the U.S. to fully support the trilateral partnership of Israel, Greece, and Cyprus through energy and defense cooperation initiatives—including by lifting the embargo on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus,” Rubio’s office noted. “The legislation also seeks to update U.S. strategy in recognition of consequential changes in the eastern Mediterranean, including the recent discovery of large natural gas fields, and a deterioration of Turkey’s relationship with the United States and our regional partners.”

“This bipartisan legislation will continue to enhance our energy and security cooperation with our allies in the Eastern Mediterranean region,” Rubio said when the bill was unveiled. “By lifting the U.S. arms embargo on Cyprus and extending necessary Foreign Military Assistance to Greece, this legislation brings forth a comprehensive approach to the stability of key regional partners.”

Comments

Turkey is a rogue state and a menace to world peace, despite being a NATO "ally". Its purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and its allegiance with Iran are aimed at further expansion into Kurdish areas of Syria, control of Cyprus and its resources, the destruction of Israel, and, ultimately, control of eastern Europe and northern Africa...i.e. Erdogan wants to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. Donald Trump doesn't seem to understand this.

It's not so much Turkey that is rogue as it is Erdogan and the people that voted him into power. However, his voting base has deteriorated severely as is evidenced by his party's loss in the mayoral elections of Turkey's three largest cities Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir - despite the fact that he nullified the results of the Istanbul election and forced a repeat election. Erdogan himself stated that the party that wins Istanbul wins Turkey. He should know as that's where he was prior to being the top elected leader. Erdogan is an Islamist (as are the majority of his supporters) and he prefers better ties with Islamic majority nations even at the expense of further separating Turkey from the western world. This is why he has chosen to buy the S-400 system. It will push away western allies and thus gain favor from other Islamist nations. Unfortunately, this is damaging to Turkey and may take a long time to repair. Ten years ago the Turkish currency traded almost evenly to the dollar. Now it trades at about 6 to 1. The Turkish economy has taken a nose dive and the citizens are painfully aware of it and the cause. However, rest assured that the Ottoman empire will not be resurrected. Unless Erdogan suspends national elections, his days as leader are numbered.

Turkey is a rogue state and a menace to world peace, despite being a NATO "ally". Its purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and its allegiance with Iran are aimed at further expansion into Kurdish areas of Syria, control of Cyprus and its resources, the destruction of Israel, and, ultimately, control of eastern Europe and northern Africa...i.e. Erdogan wants to resurrect the Ottoman Empire. Donald Trump doesn't seem to understand this.

Has nothing to do with the U.S. As usual, it's only about furthering Israel's agenda.

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