United States President Donald Trump has taken the first step to punish Turkey over its military operation Syria, imposing sanctions on several Turkish ministries and senior government officials, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.
Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary, spoke outside the White House on Monday, announcing that Trump had signed an executive order, effective immediately, imposing sanctions on the Turkish government.
The order includes Turkey’s defense, energy, and interior ministers, as well as the Turkish government’s defense and energy departments.
“Secondary sanctions” would apply to financial institutions that carry out transactions for the sanctioned individuals and departments, Mnuchin added.
US vice-president Mike Pence, who joined Mnuchin outside the White House, expressed that the sanctions are aimed at bringing about a ceasefire in the region.
Trump has phoned his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to demand an immediate truce, he underlined.
Pence also announced that he and Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, would visit Turkey soon to start negotiations with government officials.
“The sanctions that were announced today will continue and will worsen unless and until Turkey embraces an immediate ceasefire, stops the violence and agrees to negotiate a long-term settlement of the issues along the border between Turkey and Syria,” Pence explained.
Trump also said in a written statement on Monday he would raise tariffs on Turkish steel back to 50% and “immediately stop” negotiations related to a “$100 billion trade deal” with Turkey.
“Indiscriminate targeting of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and targeting of ethnic or religious minorities are unacceptable. … Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region,” Trump noted.
The president warned that he is fully prepared to “swiftly destroy” Turkey’s economy if the country’s leaders continue down “this dangerous and destructive path.”
The move came after the US president drew harsh criticism from fellow Republicans, Democrats and US allies over an abrupt shift in US foreign policy this month by allowing a Turkish military offensive to take place in north-east Syria.
Washington last Sunday ordered its military forces out of northeast Syria, effectively giving a green light for Turkey’s operation targeting the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militias in the region who have been instrumental in defeating the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region.
Turkey’s military offensive began last Wednesday with the stated intention to clear the region and establish a “safe zone” along the border to resettle some 3.6 million Syrian refugees the country currently hosts.
The operation has since displaced 100,000 people, the United Nations indicated on Friday. So far, the Turkish government has no plans to cease its offensive despite continued international criticism.