Washington, October 15
Protesting Turkey’s military offensive in northeast Syria, US President Donald Trump has announced sanctions against Turkish officials, raising of steel tariffs and ending negotiations on a USD 100 billion trade deal.
Trump has signed an executive order that empowers his administration to slap sanctions on Turkey.
The treasury department has already placed Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Energy Minister Fatih Donmez on its sanctions list, while Trump in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the US House of Representatives has declared the Turkey issue a national emergency.
On Wednesday, Ankara launched a cross-border assault on Kurdish fighters after the US decided to withdraw troops from Syria, a move criticised by the Republicans, with some terming it a “betrayal” of the Kurds.
“This (executive) order will enable the US to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees or threatening the peace, security or stability in Syria,” Trump said in a statement.
Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security and stability in the region, he said, adding that he had been perfectly clear with his Turkish counterpart that his action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes.
“I’m fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continued down this dangerous and destructive path,” the President said.
The order gives the state and treasury departments authority to consider and impose sanctions on individuals, entities or associates of the Turkish government involved in actions that endanger civilians or lead to the further deterioration of peace, security and stability in northeast Syria.
The order will authorise a broad range of measures, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the US, he said, adding that the US would immediately stop negotiations with Turkey on a USD 100 billion trade deal.
Steel tariffs would be increased back up to 50 per cent, the level prior to the reduction in May, Trump said.
He asserted that his administration would aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enabled, facilitated, and financed heinous acts in Syria.
In addition to the sanctions on the three Turkish ministers, the treasury said people who engaged in certain transactions with the persons designated today might themselves be exposed to designation.
Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitated any significant financial transactions for or on behalf of the persons designated today could be subject to US correspondent or payable through account sanctions, it said.
The treasury department said as a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of these persons, and of any other persons blocked by operation of law, that are in the US, in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to the treasury.
“Turkey must ensure the safety of civilians, including religious and ethnic minorities, and is now, or may be in the future, responsible for the ongoing detention of ISIS terrorists in the region.
“Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion,” he said.
In the letter to Pelosi, Trump said he had taken these steps because of recent actions by the Turkish government of undermining the campaign to defeat the ISIS and endangering civilians.
It further threatened to undermine the peace, security and stability in the region, thereby constituting an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the US, he said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “The US is holding the Turkish government accountable for escalating violence by Turkish forces, endangering innocent civilians, and destabilising the region.”
“We are prepared to impose additional sanctions on Government of Turkey officials and entities, as necessary,” the treasury said.
In a statement Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned if Turkey’s operation continued, it would exacerbate a growing and daunting humanitarian crisis, with potentially disastrous consequences.
“As the President has made clear, Turkey’s actions in northeast Syria severely undermine the D-ISIS (Defeat ISIS) campaign, endanger civilians, and threaten the security of the entire region,” he said.
On pulling back of US troops, Trump said a small contingent would remain at the Tanf Garrison in southern Syria to disrupt remnants of the ISIS.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had promised to bring back US troops from Syria and Afghanistan. PTI
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