The United States slapped sanctions on Turkey Tuesday as it demanded an end to its deadly incursion against Syrian Kurdish fighters, accusing its NATO partner of putting civilians at risk and allowing the release of Islamic State extremists.
The actions came hours after regime troops returned for the first time in years to parts of northeastern Syria, invited by Kurdish fighters desperate for protection as the United States pulls out.
President Donald Trump took extraordinary measures against a country that is officially a US ally as he faces mounting criticism at home, where even usually supportive lawmakers accuse him of abandoning Kurds who had spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State group.
“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Trump, who until recently had touted his friendship with Erdogan, said in a statement.
The Treasury Department said it was imposing sanctions on Turkey’s defence, interior and energy ministers, freezing their US assets and making US transactions with them a crime.
Vice President Mike Pence said he would travel shortly to Turkey and that Trump had telephoned Erdogan on Tuesday to insist that Turkey end the operation.
“The president of the United States called on the president of Turkey to stop the invasion, to enact an immediate ceasefire and to begin negotiations with Kurdish forces in Syria,” Pence told reporters at the White House.
Trump said he was also ending talks on a US-Turkey trade deal he valued at $100 billion and, in perhaps the most biting reprisal, reimposing tariffs of 50 percent of Turkish steel.
WASHINGTON AFP Oct15, 2019