WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) hailed bipartisan Congressional approval of a spending package that includes the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019. The two advocacy organizations urged President Trump to sign the bill.
AJC and HALC have championed the Eastern Mediterranean Act from its inception as a fundamental next step in creating strong, democratic partnerships in the region. The aim is to promote vital security, economic, and energy cooperation. In addition to the spending measure, the National Defense Authorization Act also includes provisions that will lift the outdated arms embargo on Cyprus and restrict the sale of F-35s to Turkey in light of Ankara's acquisition of S-400 missiles from Russia.
"This is an historic, truly transformational development in United States foreign policy," said AJC CEO David Harris, who has been a leader in advancing U.S., Cyprus, Greece, and Israel ties for more than three decades. "Both Democrats and Republicans realize we can't rely today on Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. America's frontline in this strategically and economically vital region comprises Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, as well as several Arab countries, beginning with Egypt and Jordan."
The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act of 2019 will:
- End the prohibition on arms sales to the Republic of Cyprus;
- Establish a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center to facilitate energy cooperation among the U.S., Israel, Greece, and Cyprus;
- Authorize Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece;
- Authorize increased International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and include Cyprus in the program for the first time.
- 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 last decade's multilateral diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean has led to new policy options to promote stability and prosperity in southeast Europe and the Middle East," said HALC Executive Director Endy Zemenides. "Thanks to the leadership of Senators Menendez and Rubio, and Representatives Bilirakis, Cicilline and Deutch, the U.S. can be a more active participant in these multilateral initiatives. The East Med Act puts substance behind the 'stronger together' mantra."
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) hailed the passage of the Act. "I have said for a while now that I felt that we were in a moment in which the stars were aligned. I think there is a growing recognition of the importance of Greece and Cyprus along with Israel as a new strategy for the Eastern Mediterranean. It speaks volumes of the importance of Greece and Cyprus along with Israel in the new strategy that we can include the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act of 2019 by agreement in the appropriations bill that will become law."
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, "I am proud to have co-authored a bill that enhances our engagement in the Eastern Mediterranean, a region that is strategically important to the U.S. and our allies. The inclusion of the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Partnership Act of 2019 in the appropriations bill for fiscal year 2020 reaffirms our nation's commitment to strengthening and expanding our energy and security cooperation with our key allies and partners in the region."
Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) celebrated the "bipartisan and bicameral" nature of the law, noting that "in an increasingly unstable region, and with Turkey making a decisive turn away from the West, the Greece-Cyprus-Israel partnership with the U.S. is especially timely. America's energy diplomacy, security and counterterrorism strategies, and efforts against Russia, Iranian, and Turkish malign influences will all be strengthened by such cooperation. This is why I made the Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act such a priority."
Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL), who with Representative Bilirakis chairs the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance caucus, declared: "We used this spending bill to reaffirm American priorities in our foreign policy, which includes supporting the growing partnership in the Eastern Mediterranean between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus. As a co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance, I'm proud that Congress passed my bipartisan legislation to deepen our connection with this important trilateral relationship."
Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), whose amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also lifted the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus said, "More than ever, we need stable and reliable allies. The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act helps us deepen critical relationships and formalize the trend of cooperation between American allies and strategic partners."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee