The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved legislation authored by Ranking Member Bob Menendez (D-N.J), which would update the United States’ strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean to meet new challenges and opportunities in that region. The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 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 prohibition on arms transfers to the Republic of Cyprus.
“I am thrilled to see such strong bipartisan support for this important piece of legislation to chart a new path forward for the eastern Mediterranean,” said Senator Menendez. “Israel, Greece, and Cyprus are key partners of the United States, and today’s vote confirms that we need a new strategy that reflects our mutual interests. The Eastern Mediterranean is a region of central importance to our country, and it must therefore figure more prominently in how we allocate diplomatic energy, engagement and resources. I look forward to working with my colleagues so that this important legislation is swiftly considered and approved by the full Senate.”
The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 would:
• Lift the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus;
• Authorize the establishment of a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation between the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus;
• Authorize $3,000,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece;
• Authorize International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and Cyprus from fiscal years 2020-2022.
• 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.
• 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.
The vote was welcomed by Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) as an important step towards adopting an integrated regional strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean region, stressing that the positive trends already seen in the region such as the Middle East, cooperation in the field of energy and security will be further accelerated.
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