Published: Sat, October 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Trump to authorise sanctions against Turkey if incursion into Syria destabilises region

Trump to authorise sanctions against Turkey if incursion into Syria destabilises region

We hope we don't have to use them. It also gives Turkey a green light to move in and it has.

US President Donald Trump tweeted on late Thursday: "We have one of three choices: Send in thousands of troops and win militarily, hit Turkey very hard Financially and with Sanctions, or mediate a deal between Turkey and the Kurds!".

Esper's remarks appeared aimed at strengthening the Trump administration's argument that it did all it could to stop the Turks and, failing that, was left with no reasonable option but to pull some US troops away from the border.

Many have called the limited US pullback a grave mistake.

All told, the U.S. moved between 50 to 100 troops out of northern Syria this week, as the Turkish forces prepared their assault.

Esper told a Pentagon news conference that Washington is "greatly disappointed" by the Turkish incursion.

Some 100,000 people have left their homes in north-eastern Syria with a growing number taking refuge in shelters and schools following this week's Turkish military incursion in the region, the United Nations said.

"I have communicated to them multiple times that they are responsible for the security of these ISIS fighters in these prisons", he added.

Meanwhile, a French official said Friday that sanctions against Turkey will be "on the table" at next week's European Union summit, over Ankara's incursion into Syria. Esper announced Friday that he was sending dozens more fighter jets and additional air defenses to Saudi Arabia, beefing up efforts to defend against Iran.

"We are deeply concerned at the unilateral military offensive by Turkey in north-east Syria. With the support from global community we will resettle 1 million people into 140 villages with 5,000 inhabitants and 50 districts of 30,000 inhabitants", he said during his parliamentary address October 1. After Ankara's purchase of S-400 missile defense systems from Russia, Washington threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions and kick the country out of the F-35 fighter jet program. Speaking in the capital, Ankara, he also said Turkish forces would eliminate the threat from Islamic State militants in the region.

By Thursday, he was once again distancing himself from the Kurds, telling reporters that while he "liked" them, they were only fighting for "their land" and did not, for instance, help the USA invade Germany in the Second World War.

But two days into the offensive, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces were fending for themselves, trying to repulse multiple ground attacks along a roughly 120-kilometre-long segment of the border.

Esper said he and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley had delivered that message to their Turkish counterparts in phone calls in the past 24 hours, but said it so far had shown no response from the Turkish side.

"I had to leave with only the clothes I had on me", said Mikael Mohammad, a clothing shop owner from Tal Abyad, which lies a quarter-mile from the Turkish frontier. That plan was met with outcry from human rights advocates, who fear that such zones would be inaccessible to humanitarian workers and could become a backdrop for human rights violations by Turkish armed forces.

The SDF have been the main allies of USA forces on the ground in the battle against Islamic State since 2014. A Syrian rebel forces spokesman said the towns were surrounded after fighters seized the villages around them. But he said the "encouraging them to not overreact at this point and to try to tamp things down in order to allow some sort of diplomatic resolution".

Since Trump pulled USA troops out of the way following a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the incursion has opened a major new front in the eight-year-old Syrian civil war and drawn fierce criticism internationally.

Turkey is relying heavily on Syrian proxies recruited among Arab former militants defeated by the Damascus government for its ground operations against the Kurds.

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