Trump calls for cease-fire in Syria, installs sanctions on Turkey over military strikes
dpa, Hamburg, Germany
US President Donald Trump imposed a raft of sanctions and doubled tariffs on Turkey on Monday over Ankara’s assault on north-east Syria.
The US announcement followed a rare and vocal bipartisan barrage of criticism for the Republican president’s withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which critics say paved the way for the Turkish incursion and could lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State.
Trump’s moves cap a flurry of action on Monday as the conflict escalates between Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, who were once a key US ally.
Trump ordered Vice President Mike Pence to lead a delegation to Turkey in search of a ceasefire, hours after saying he would be happy if Russia, China “or Napolean Bonaparte” took responsibility for the Kurds.
“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Trump said in a statement that did not mention the imperiled Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“I have been perfectly clear with President Erdogan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes,” he added, calling on Turkey to protect “religious and ethnic minorities.”
The US sanctions apply to Turkey’s Defence Ministry and Energy Ministry and to the ministers of interior, defense, and energy.
Trump also said he would halt negotiations over 100 billion dollars in trade with Ankara and double tariffs on Turkish steel, which are currently at 25 percent.
The United States will issue sanction waivers for US government sales to Turkey, including arms and energy sales and humanitarian responses.
Speaking to reporters, Vice President Mike Pence said the sanctions “will continue and will worsen unless and until Turkey embraces an immediate ceasefire, stops the violence and agrees to negotiate a long-term settlement of the issues along the border between Turkey and Syria.”
Following the sanctions announcement, Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, said the US sanctions are not enough and called on Republicans to support a resolution demanding a reversal of Trump’s troop withdrawal.
Turkey started its incursion into north-east Syria on Wednesday after Trump announced a withdrawal of some forces near the border.
Ankara’s assault has since spread and sparked mass civilian displacement in Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempt to uproot the SDF.
Turkey claims that the Syrian Kurds are tied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish insurgent group inside Turkey.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said Monday the Turkish invasion has led to the release of dangerous Islamic State prisoners and “widespread casualties, refugees, destruction, insecurity, and a growing threat to US military forces.”
Esper will travel to Brussels next week in the hope of organizing collective action against Turkey.
Pence said Erdogan made a “firm committment” not to attack the Kurdish stronghold of Kobane in Syria in a phone call with Trump on Monday.
Trump said the troops being withdrawn from north-east Syria will remain in the Middle East and that a “small footprint” of US forces will remain in southern Syria “to continue to disrupt remnants of” Islamic State.
In the wake of the US withdrawal, the Kurdish-led forces have struck a deal with the Russian-backed government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to protect them from Turkey.
“Let Syria and Assad protect the Kurds and fight Turkey for their own land,” Trump wrote in a rant on Twitter before announcing the sanctions in a more carefully worded statement.
The US has been allied with Syrian Kurds since 2014 in the war against Islamic State, and together they worked to defeat the territorial caliphate and hold captive Islamic State fighters.
The Kurdish-led force said it has lost some 10,000 people in the war.
The tariff announcement came after Trump allies and critics united to slam the president for abandoning the Kurds.
Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, warned of a “strategic calamity in the Middle East” on Monday.
“I am gravely concerned by recent events in Syria and by our nation’s apparent response thus far,” McConnell said in a statement, without mentioning Trump by name. “Turkey’s offensive against our Syrian Kurdish partners is jeopardizing years of hard-won progress in the fight against [Islamic State].”
McConnell, a staunch Trump defender, warned of a resurgence for the terrorist Sunni militia and a “power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia,” calling it a “catastrophic outcome.”
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, said that there must be a bipartisan resolution overturning Trump’s “dangerous decision in Syria immediately,” in what would likely be a symbolic move. She has also called for stronger sanctions.
©2019 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)
Visit Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany) at www.dpa.de/English.82.0.html
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.