A number of US Republican and Democratic Party senators have called on President Trump’s administration to impose sanctions on Turkey if Ankara and its affiliated forces have conducted operations outside the designated northeast Syria safe zone – a violation of ceasefire deals made with the US and Russia.
“There have been numerous accounts that Turkish and/or Turkish-backed forces are attacking Syrian Kurds near Tal Tamr,” Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen, Richard Blumenthal and Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “If true, these attacks would violate the separate ceasefire agreements Ankara forged with both Washington and Moscow.”
“On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to ‘destroy Turkey’s economy’ should Turkey violate its obligations,” the letter added.
“In keeping with this position, we ask that the Administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17 agreement with tough economic sanctions,” the senators concluded, adding they would continue to seek passage of a sanctions bill in Congress.
“We ask that the Administration take immediate action against Turkey if there reports are true,” the letter added.
Turkey and its proxies launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria on October 9, with a stated aim of clearing a 32 kilometer-deep zone of Kurdish forces. Arab Syrian refugees would then be resettled in the area – a move Kurds say amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Ankara has struck two ceasefire deals – one with the US, the other with Russia – which Turkey has repeatedly been accused of violating.
The battle between the SDF and Turkish-backed Syrian forces currently centers on Tel Tamr, which falls outside the safe zone agreed upon in recent deals made between the US, Russia and Turkey.
“The Turkish state’s goal is to control Tel Tamr because it is a strategic area. Tel Tamr is the mini version of Syria. There are Kurds, Christians and Arabs. Therefore, it is important for us to focus on it,” General Commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) Mazloum Abdi said in an interview with Rudaw on Tuesday, describing the town as a “mini version of Syria”.
Abdi described the US-brokered ceasefire as unsuccessful and accused Turkey and their militia groups of not respecting the deals made with Washington and Moscow “even for an hour”.
“A single word” from Trump to Erdogan would stop Turkey’s continued offensive, the SDF commander added.
Trump discussed “ending hostilities against Kurds” with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday. He is set to meet with Erdogan in Washington on November 13.