US House approves draft bill urging Trump to sanction Turkey over Syria

The United States House of Representatives approved a resolution calling on President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on Turkey and its officials over the Syria offensive on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The measure underscoring the growing divide between Congress and a NATO ally reportedly passed 403-16, as part of an effort by both Democrats and many of Trump’s fellow Republicans to force Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the operation.

Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria, which was launched earlier in October, targeted the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) that helped US troops battle the Islamic State (ISIS) militants in the region.

Ankara designates YPG as a terrorist organization due to its links to the Kurdish separatists in Turkey called the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and started a campaign against them with a stated aim to establish a “safe zone” along its border with Syria.

Trump has faced bipartisan condemnation in Washington for his withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which paved the way for Ankara’s long-threatened offensive.

The Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act introduced by Rep Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Foreign Affairs Committee, was on Tuesday sent by the House onto the Senate floor for a vote. If it passes, it will then go on to Trump to be signed into law.

The act would impose financial and visa penalties on Turkey’s defense minister, the chief of the general staff of the Turkish armed forces and the finance minister and sanction the state-owned bank Halkbank.

According to the bill, all arms sales to Turkey that could be used against the Kurdish forces in Syria will also be banned and foreigners providing arms to the country’s military forces will face sanctions.

Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed condemnation for the draft bill in a statement on Tuesday, underlining that it is “incompatible with the spirit of our NATO Alliance.”

Also on Tuesday, the US House passed a resolution to officially recognize the mass killings of Armenians in 1915 as genocide.

The day that is marked as the 96th anniversary of Turkey’s Republic Day that celebrates the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Although Turkey accepts that many Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in inter-communal clashes during World War I, it refuses to label it a systematic mass killing and a genocide.

They argue that it is not historically accurate to portray the Armenian killings as systematic or intentional because a large number of Turks were also killed in the same period.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister described the vote in a tweet as a “shameful decision” by the US lawmakers who oppose Ankara’s military campaign against the Kurds in Syria that is “null and void” for the Turkish government.

A report released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based human rights monitor, on Tuesday said that a total of 130 civilians have been killed and over 300,000 have been displaced in Syria since the start of the Turkish incursion on October 9.

The US lawmakers hold forth that the evacuation and displacement of the Kurds in northeastern Syria are tantamount to ethnic cleansing.

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