U.S. State Department nominee Donfried signals tougher line on Turkey in confirmation hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Karen Donfried, nominee for Assistant Secretary of State Department for European and Eurasian Affairs, said the United States should work with its European allies to sanction Turkey if the rule of law continues to be violated in that country.

In questioning Donfried, Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen stated that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Northern Cyprus on the “anniversary of the illegal Turkish invasion“ was a provocation. Van Hollen also condemned Erdogan’s announcement of plans to “re-open” the abandoned beachfront town of Varosha which has been fenced off by the Turkish military since the 1974 invasion.

He said the plans were a “gross violation of numerous U.N. Security Council resolutions and U.S. policy statements regarding not to change the status quo before a settlement on the island.”

Van Hollen asked Donfried whether she would agree to stand firm with partners in the EU against the planned opening of Varosha.

“Yes, I do agree that we should work closely with EU and European allies on how to push back against this. I think we’d be stronger in doing so,” Donfried said. If approved, Donfried said she looked forward to working closely with the committee “on these critical issues around stability and peace in the eastern Mediterranean”.

Donfried said the matter of Varosha needs to be referred to the United Nations Security Council, and the U.S. needs to encourage the international community to give a strong response. “We also need to work to de-escalate the tension in eastern Mediterranean,” she said.

Donfried served as President Barack Obama’s special assistant and senior director for European issues on the National Security Council, where he assisted the president in developing US strategy toward Turkey. In April 2014, she was named President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF).