Ankara Vows to Retaliate for 'Unacceptable' US Sanctions, Threats Over Syria Op
14:31 16.10.2019(updated 15:41 16.10.2019)
On Monday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order authorising broad-ranging sanctions against Turkish officials and entities, including the Turkish defence and energy ministries, in response to Ankara's ongoing military operations in northern Syria.
Turkey considers sanctions and the threat of sanctions unacceptable, and will retaliate in kind, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has announced.
Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday ahead of talks with US officials, Cavusoglu said Ankara expects lawmakers in Washington to reconsider its harmful approach, which he said has "tested" the Turkish-US relationship.
"Dear members of parliament, we will be decisive in our operation, and our US-Turkey relations are at a critical threshold as well, between our president and President Trump regarding Syria. There is a mutual understanding that some members of Congress and other members of the US administration are sort of testing this alliance that has stood the test of time, and unfortunately they are seeking remedies in an illegitimate partnership with a terrorist organisation," Cavusoglu said.
"The US administration and the Congress are exhibiting a very, very unfortunate stance. We expect them to reassess their position," the foreign minister added.
"The US cannot stick to unilateralism," Cavusoglu said. "Our stance against that is quite evident," he added.
"We want to protect the security of our country...we will not bow down to any sort of sanctions, and this will not have an impact on our decisiveness. And of course regarding these sanctions, we will reciprocate as necessary," the foreign minister concluded.
Cavusoglu was expected to meet with newly-minted US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien on Wednesday in Ankara, with O'Brien, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set to hold talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday about the ongoing Turkish operation in Syria.
Syria Op Strains Relations
Turkey launched its 'Operation Peace Spring' in northeastern Syria last week, declaring that it was seeking to establish a security zone free of Daesh (ISIS)* terrorists and Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militants, whom Ankara considers a 'terrorist entity'. Ankara's operation, being carried out in the wake of a recent withdrawal of US forces from northern Syria, has sparked intense criticism from Turkey's NATO allies, with several countries announcing the halt of weapons deliveries to the country, and the US threatening to sanction Turkish officials and entities.
Turkey's allies have accused the country of attacking Syria's Kurds, who played an instrumental role in helping to defeat Daesh as it sought to establish a caliphate across much of eastern Syria and western Iraq between 2014 and 2017. Ankara has countered, alleging that the YPG is associated with the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK), a militant Turkish Kurdish political movement which has waged a low intensity war against the Turkish government for decades.
President Erdogan said Wednesday that he was considering cancelling his planned visit to the US due to Washington's sanctions threats.
Damascus has called Turkey's operation a violation of Syria's territorial integrity, and accused Ankara of "aggressive intentions". On Monday, regional media reported that Syrian Army forces had entered areas of northern Syria previously held by US-backed Kurdish militia. On Sunday, Kurdish authorities announced that they had reached an agreement with Damascus allowing the Syrian Army to deploy along the entire Syria-Turkey border to help repel attacks. On Tuesday, the Syrian Army took control of Manbij. On Wednesday, President Erdogan said Ankara's priority was that "terrorists should be cleared" from Manbij, and that Turkey didn't object to either Russian or Syrian forces in the city.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.
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