In Depth

Will US sanctions stop Turkey?

Vice-president insists Donald Trump did not give ‘green light’ for Turkish offensive in Syria

The US has imposed sanctions on Turkish officials and institutions in response to the country’s military operations in northern Syria.

President Donald Trump spoke directly to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday to demand an immediate ceasefire, the BBC reports.

Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from the region last week, leaving the way clear for Turkish forces to launch an offensive against Kurdish fighters who had been key allies of the US in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey subsequently began a cross-border attack on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera reports that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, “normally a staunch Trump supporter”, this week said he was “gravely concerned” by the president’s handling of the situation.

The withdrawal of US troops “would recreate the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy, and invite the resurgence of Isis”, McConnell continued in a statement.

But Vice-President Mike Pence insisted that “the United States of America did not give a green light for Turkey to invade Syria”, adding that he would travel to the region for talks “as soon as possible”.

Pence said Trump had called Erdogan to communicate “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”.

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The US sanctions include halting negotiations on a $100bn (£79bn) US-Turkey trade deal, raising steel tariffs back up to 50%, and imposing direct sanctions on senior Turkish officials by freezing their assets in the US and banning US transactions with them.

In a statement announcing the move, Trump said that he was “fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path”, which was “endangering civilians and threatening peace, security and stability in the region”.

The measures have met with a mixed response in the US. Senator Lindsey Graham said he “strongly” supported the sanctions, but fellow leading Republican Mike McCaul said they did “not go far enough to punish Turkey for it egregious offences in Syria”.

Meanwhile, senior Democrats released a joint statement saying that the only person who could “immediately stop this tragedy unfolding is the president himself”.

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said the sanctions fell “very short of reversing the humanitarian disaster brought about by [Trump’s] own erratic decision-making”.

The director of the Turkey Project at the Washington D.C-based the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Bulent Alireza, told Al Jazeera that Trump’s tactics were “almost embarrassing to watch” and that Pence’s planned trip to Ankara would be a “mission impossible”.

“The Turks will react with scorn,” Alireza said. “It's a total misunderstanding of the Turkish psyche.”

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