US President Donald Trump on Monday imposed sanctions on Turkey over Ankara’s military operation in northeast Syria, and called for an immediate ceasefire.
Trump said he would send Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien to Ankara as soon as possible in an attempt to begin negotiations.
Pence said Trump had spoken directly to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who promised not attack the border town of Kobane.
“President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence,” Pence said.
The sanctions apply to 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”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
In his sanctions announcement, Trump said he was halting negotiations on a $100bn trade deal with Turkey and raising steel tariffs back up to 50 percent. The president also imposed sanctions on three senior Turkish officials and Turkey’s defence and energy ministries.
In a statement announcing the move, Trump said he was “fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path”.
Trump said Turkey’s military offensive was “endangering civilians and threatening peace, security and stability in the region”.
According to the US Treasury, Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and Energy Minister Fatih Donmez were placed on the department’s sanctions blacklist, freezing their assets in the United States and banning US or US-related transactions with them.
“I have been perfectly clear with Erdogan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes,” Trump added in his statement.
“Turkey must ensure the safety of civilians, including religous and ethnic minorities, and is now, or may be in the future, responsible for the ongoing detention of ISIS terrorists in the region.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the sanctions would hurt an already weak Turkish economy and Pence warned the US would continue to ramp up the sanctions unless Turkey “was willing to embrace a ceasefire, come to the negotiating table and end the violence.”
In an editorial published in Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, the Turkish president has vowed not to allow ISIL fighters to escape northern Syria.
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