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Turkey’s hopes after Menendez exit are dashed

Turkey’s hopes after Menendez exit are dashed

[Reuters]

Turkey’s hopes that Senator Bob Menendez’s surrender of his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee would lead Congress to quickly approve the sale of F-16 fighters and upgrade kits are being dashed.

As new chairman Ben Cardin (D-MD) settles into his role, he is reportedly becoming more entrenched in his belief that Turkey must change tack on a number of issues besides ratifying Sweden’s accession to NATO if it wants to improve relations with the US.

Among those nudging Cardin toward this conclusion was Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who called him just hours after he took over the committee chairmanship from Menendez, the first foreign official to contact Cardin.

Mitsotakis focused on the state of Greece’s relations with Turkey and reminded Cardin of Menendez’s discussions with the Biden administration on providing Greece with security guarantees in case the sale of the fighters went through.

By the time he spoke with Mitsotakis, Cardin had already been briefed by two fellow legislators from Maryland and longtime friends, Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative John Sarbanes. Both emphasized Turkey’s non-constructive engagement on several issues of importance to the US. As a result, Cardin declared that Sweden’s ratification is just one of the issues that must be discussed with Ankara.

Sen. Jim Risch, the Republican ranking member of the committee, and Gregory Meeks, the Democratic ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, are on the same page. Both, but especially Risch, are said to be irked by Turkey’s dragging its feet on Sweden despite the assurances it gave at the last NATO Summit. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas, where both the F-16 and F-35 aircraft are produced, is more favorable to the sale to Turkey as soon as it ratifies Sweden’s NATO membership.

Cardin is known for his sensitivity to human rights violations. In his first days as chairman he has taken a hard line on Egypt and Azerbaijan, and analysts do not exclude his treating Turkey the same way.

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