Washington: US President Donald Trump Monday signed an executive order that empowers his administration to slap sanctions on Turkey for its military offensive in northern Syria.
The administration put the Turkish defense, energy and interior ministers on the sanction list soon after the order was given to the state and treasury departments.
The executive order gives the departments authority to consider and impose sanctions on individuals, entities, or associates of the government of Turkey involved in actions that endanger civilians or lead to the further deterioration of peace, security and stability in northeast Syria.
Declaring a national emergency against Turkey, Trump in a letter to the Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the US House of Representatives said he has taken this step because recent actions by the Turkish government of undermining the campaign to defeat the ISIS and endangering civilians.
It further threatens 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.
Trump announced that steel tariffs will be increased back up to 50 percent, the level prior to reduction in May.
“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,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
He warned that if Turkey’s operation continues, it will exacerbate a growing and daunting humanitarian crisis, with potentially disastrous consequences.
Pompeo demanded that Turkey immediately cease its unilateral offensive in northeast Syria and return to a dialogue with the US on security in northeast Syria.
Soon thereafter the order was issued, the treasury department imposed sanctions on Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Energy Minister Fatih Donmez.
“We are prepared to impose additional sanctions on Government of Turkey officials and entities, as necessary,” the treasury said.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “The United States is holding the Turkish Government accountable for escalating violence by Turkish forces, endangering innocent civilians, and destabilizing the region.”
In addition to the sanctions on the three Turkish ministers, the treasury said people who engage in certain transactions with the persons designated today may themselves be exposed to designation.
Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates 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.
Earlier Trump in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan “pressed [Erdogan] very strongly” to broker a ceasefire immediately, Vice President Mike Pence told reporters. Pence is scheduled to visit Turkey in coming days.
“The president of the US 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 said.