US Senate committee approves Turkey sanctions bill

Cheryl Sanders
December 12, 2019

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a sanctions bill against Turkey over its military offensive in northern Syria and its purchase of a Russian-made missile system.

United States officials have voiced concerns over the Turkish purchase of the Russian S-400 system, stressing that it could undermine the military technology of Turkey's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies - particularly the F-35 jet.

Lawmakers, including some of Trump's fellow Republicans, have been pushing the president to take a harder stance against Russian Federation over election interference, aggression toward Ukraine and involvement in Syria's civil war.

The Turkish foreign ministry described the latest initiatives in Congress as "a new manifestation of disrespect for our sovereign decisions regarding our national security".

Senator Jim Risch, Republican president of the panel, was one of the main sponsors of the bill with Senator Bob Menendez, his chief Democrat. He said that this would weaken the president's power to negotiate with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"This is not some minor dustup with this country".

"We call upon the US Congress to adopt a constructive approach safeguarding our common objectives to develop Turkish-US relations which were confirmed at the highest level in recent weeks and to act in a reasonable manner", the statement concluded.

But other senators strongly disagreed.

In retaliation to America's sanctions over the acquisition of the S-400 air defense system from Russia, Turkey may expel the USA from Incirlik airbase. Many lawmakers, fellow Republicans and Trump Democrats, are angry over the purchase of Turkey's S-400, which they consider a threat to NATO's defenses. This is a drift from this country, Turkey, to go in a completely different direction than they had in the past.

They also criticised Trump's decision to withdraw USA troops from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey's offensive in the area against Kurdish militias, who until recently were fighting alongside American forces against Islamic State militants.

"It is understood that members of (the US) Congress have shut their eyes and ears to the truth", Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said. "They've thumbed their nose at us, and they've thumbed their nose at their other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies", he said.

The United States argues that the system could be used by Russian Federation to secretly obtain classified details of the F35.

In addition to sanctions over the S-400 purchase, the legislation would sanction officials and business leaders involved in Turkey's October incursion into northern Syria.

In an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said any US sanctions would harm US-Turkish ties and repeated a threat of retaliation. Russian Federation completed the first shipment of S-400 components to Turkey in late July 2019, with Erdogan stating that that the S-400s will be fully operational in the country by April 2020.

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