AHI Urges NATO Secretary General to Address Turkey’s Behavior

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No. 31

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) sent a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to convey strong concern regarding the actions and behavior of NATO member Turkey toward fellow Alliance member countries. AHI also expressed profound disappointment with NATO’s inability to address intra-Alliance conflicts because it lacks a provision or mechanism to deal with such an issue.

In the letter, AHI President Nick Larigakis contends Turkey continues to demonstrate it is not a true and dependable NATO ally.  Larigakis cited numerous examples, including: Turkish threats directed at the United States military in Manbij, Syria, Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles, Turkey’s countless violations of Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean, and Turkish aggression toward the surveying vessel of a multinational oil company (Eni) headquartered in NATO-member Italy that was preparing to survey in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus.

“Clearly, Turkey does not share NATO’s core purpose or best interests. Numerous foreign policy and defense policy analysts and journals have called into question Turkey’s actions as a NATO ally.  It is unbecoming of a NATO member to act in the aggressive and provocative manner as it has toward fellow Alliance-member countries, United States and Greece.  We believe it is time for NATO to explore how to ease tensions and address Turkey’s intra-Alliance unproductive behavior,” Larigakis concludes.

AHI Supports Legislation to Limit Transfer of F-35s to Turkey

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No. 30

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute supports the introduction of legislation aimed to limit the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey and commends the bill’s three original sponsors, U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Tom Tillis (R-NC).

“We thank the bill’s sponsor, Senator Lankford, and the bill’s original co-sponsors, Senators Shaheen and Tillis,” AHI President Nick Larigakis said. “The transfer of such sensitive technology to the Erdogan regime, which has purchased the S-400 missile system from Russia despite U.S. and NATO objections, is a threat to U.S. interests and security.  We urge Congress to pass this legislation.”

This past week, Larigakis sent letters to each of the three senators thanking them and conveying AHI’s strong support for the legislation, S.2781.  The letters outlined several reasons for AHI’s backing of the legislation, including Turkey’s blatant disregard for the rule of law as it pertains toward Greece, Cyprus, and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  In addition, Larigakis cited the Turkish government’s threats toward the United States military and Turkish nationals working for the U.S. Embassy and the wrongful imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson.

AHI Welcomes Chief of the Hellenic Armed Forces to Hellenic House

No. 29

Washington, DC - Chief of the Hellenic National Defence General Staff Admiral Evangelos Apostolakis visited Hellenic House to meet with American Hellenic Institute (AHI) President Nick Larigakis and members of the Board of Directors, May 2, 2018.

"We thank Admiral Apostolakis for taking time from his itinerary in Washington to meet with us," President Larigakis said. "We appreciated the opportunity to be briefed on developments in the Eastern Mediterranean and the close-working cooperation between the militaries of longstanding NATO allies, Greece and the United States.”

Admiral Apostolakis' visit to Washington comes at a critical time in U.S.-Greece defense cooperation as Greece approved the upgrade of 85 F-16 fighter jets this week.  In Washington, the admiral also met with his U.S. counterpart, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, held meetings on Capitol Hill, and made a presentation at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Admiral Apostolakis thanked AHI for the great work it does to promote Greece around the world. He also discussed the daily multi-faceted challenges that Greece faces in the Eastern Mediterranean including from its NATO ally, Turkey.

“Greece is an immensely valuable, proven, and reliable strategic ally for the projection of U.S. strategic interests in the region, and Greece is a frontline state in the fight against terrorism,” Larigakis said. “These messages are central to the policy agenda AHI promotes so strongly in Washington.”

AHI Board Members Athina Balta and Peter Bota, and AHI Legal Counsel and Board Treasurer Nick Karambelas, joined AHI President Larigakis at the meeting. 

AHI Panel Examines U.S. Strategic Interests in Aegean Sea, Cyprus

No. 28

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a panel discussion on the topic, “U.S. Strategic Interests: The Aegean Sea & Cyprus' EEZ,” April 17, 2018, at the Capital Hilton, Washington, D.C.  The panelists included: Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow, AHI Legal Counsel and Partner at Sfikas & Karambelas Nick Karambelas, and Trilogy Advisors LLC Principal John Sitilides.  AHI President Nick Larigakis moderated the panel discussion, which was followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

AHI President Larigakis opened the panel discussion with welcome remarks.  He provided the backdrop of the current state of events in the eastern Mediterranean and why it is in the best interests of the United States for the region to be politically, economically, and socially stable and peaceful.

AHI Legal Counsel Karambelas presented on the rule of law of how it applies to the Aegean Sea and to the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of Cyprus. With regard to the Aegean Sea, the United States was not a signatory to the Treaty of Lausanne, which ceded the Dodecanese islands and islets to Italy from the Ottoman Empire, because the United States did not declare war on the Ottoman Empire.  However, under the Treaty of Paris of 1947, to which the United States is a party, the Dodecanese Islands and adjacent islets as well as Kastelorizo along with its adjacent islets were ceded by Italy to Greece.  The Treaty of Paris is U.S. federal law and the U.S. is bound to enforce it.  Karambelas raised the question as to the role of the president in enforcing treaties to which the U.S. is a party.  He added that Congress has the implied power to order the president to comply with such treaties. 

Further, Karambelas offered a concept in international law known as “persistent objector” as a legal explanation as to why Turkey constantly violates Greece’s sovereignty in the Aegean.  Karambelas stated that President Erdogan has taken a tact which is different from previous Turkish leaders.  They questioned the interpretation of the treaty.  President Erdogan maintains that the treaty itself is unlawful and must be discarded.     

Finally, Karambelas stated that only one treaty applies to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Cyprus, the UN Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS). Turkey is not a signatory. He explained how the maritime borders and the EEZ’s are delineated under UNCLOS.  Karambelas dismissed any Turkish claims that islands do not have an EEZ or continental shelf because under UNCLOS they clearly do.  He also dismissed Turkey’s claims that its continental shelf extends into the Cyprus EEZ because Turkish-occupied Cyprus is not a nation-state.  It has none of the maritime zones to which a nation-state is entitled.  Because islands have EEZs, Kastelorizo which is south of the Turkish mainland has an EEZ which connects to Greek EEZ with the Cypriot EEZ.  Turkey asserts that islands do not have EEZs so that the Turkish EEZ to the south of the Turkish mainland and cuts off this connection.

John Sitilides, Principal at Trilogy Advisors and a diplomacy consultant to the State Department, addressed the geostrategic implications of the U.S.-Greece relationship, opening with the role Greece played in April’s coalition missile strikes in Syria. Sitilides described an “arc of crisis” ranging from Russia’ occupation of Ukraine, Turkey’s attacks on Syrian Kurds allied with the U.S. and its ongoing occupation of Syria, Iraq and Cyprus; Islamic State’s spread into the Sinai Peninsula, near the critical Suez Canal chokepoint; and the anarchic battlefields of Libya, through which massive numbers of African migrants are crossing into and overwhelming southern Europe.  

“Greece is at the heart of these significant geopolitical risk issues throughout the eastern Mediterranean, southeastern Europe and the Middle East for the United States,” he said.

Sitilides spoke about the strategic importance of the Aegean Sea to the modern Greek nation-state and detailed the series of Turkey’s challenges to Greece’s Aegean sovereignty rights since 1973. Greece-Turkey tensions are the larger problem from the United States’ perspective, he stated, emphasizing the importance to Washington of very close relations with both Athens and Ankara. Historically, Washington has sought to play the role of honest broker to foster an environment for Greece and Turkey to mutually resolve their differences. However, Sitilides noted that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has downplayed the most recent Turkish provocations against Greece, including Turkish threats to invade Greek islands, and noted that NATO has no provision to resolve intra-alliance conflict that could occur between allies Greece and Turkey. Sitilides stated that NATO has an absolute obligation to intercede and dissuade Turkey from any further threats against a fellow NATO member. Further, Sitilides conveyed concern about Turkey’s recent ramping-up of Aegean sovereignty challenges and noted Turkey’s diplomatic leverage: two Greek soldiers in custody and three million Syrian refugees in Turkey which Ankara can send towards the Aegean. Sitilides predicted early Turkish elections would be held in summer 2018, rather than summer 2019, and that efforts to maximize Turkish nationalist voter turnout would likely lead to escalated Turkey’s threats against Greece in the intervening period, and potentially beyond the elections.

Cato Institute Senior Fellow Bandow debunked the notion of Turkey serving as a vital U.S. ally.  He noted Turkey’s refusal to grant the United States the ability to open a northern front against Saddam Hussein in 2003, Turkey’s role in giving rise to ISIS, President Erdogan’s threat to U.S. military personnel in Manbij, Syria, Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missiles and their interoperability with NATO, and Turkey using refugees as a weapon to disrupt Europe. Bandow asserted Turkey is not a bridge to Europe and that the notion of Turkey becoming an EU member is “fantasy,” adding it would require a change of culture and political leadership.