Greek association applauds U.S. suspension of weapons sales to Turkey

A leading Greek-U.S. organisation has expressed its appreciation after U.S. President Donald Trump signed a national defence budget act that suspends U.S. sales of weapons, including new generation F-35 fighter jets, to Turkey.

The Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC)’s statement described how the influential Greek organisation had, in partnership with the Armenian National Committee of America, called on U.S. lawmakers to halt weapons sales to Turkey in the months before the act was signed on Tuesday.

The statement went on to thank a group of senators, including Jeanne Shaheen and James Lankford, “for their steadfast commitment to this issue and to security in the region.”

Shaheen and Lankford were among the foremost names pushing for action against Turkey in response to the country’s purchase of S-400 missile defence systems from Russia and imprisonment of Pastor Andrew Brunson and other U.S. citizens and employees.

Trump signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA), which contained the section on Turkey that the senators pushed through congress, on Tuesday evening.

The NDAA suspends U.S. weapons sales to Turkey for a 90-day period, during which the Pentagon will prepare a report for Congress on the impact of removing Turkey from the F-35 supply chain.

More than ten Turkish companies are involved in production of the F-35, after over a billion dollars of investment in the project.

Turkey has 30 of the planes on order, and had been expected to order a total of 100.

“The language included in the NDAA barring the transfer of F-35s to Turkey is but the first step in a long-overdue reassessment of the US-Turkey relationship,” said HALC Executive Director Endy Zemenides in the statement.

“For far too long, Turkey has acted with impunity in the region, threatening America’s allies, violating international law, and undermining regional security,” he said.

Turkey’s relations with Greece have fared badly in recent years, with disputes over islands in the Aegean Sea and gas exploration rights in the waters around Cyprus added to tension over Turkey’s imprisonment in March of two Greek soldiers who were arrested after crossing the border into Turkey.

The pair were released pending trial on Tuesday by a Turkish court.