International

Erdogan defiant in face of sanctions, arms embargo

Erdogan defiant in face of sanctions, arms embargo
Smoke and dust billows from targets in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by bombardment by Turkish forces, Tuesday. (AP)
Istanbul, Oct 15 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 10/15/2019 11:52:42 AM IST

Turkey’s president has said he would not stop his offensive on northern Syria until “all our objectives had been achieved”, defying US sanctions, a European arms embargo and increasing international isolation.

Turkey is in the seventh day of its assault against the Syrian Kurdish forces, which has so far forced more than 150,000 people to flee and left some 60 civilians dead.

“God willing, we will quickly secure the region stretching from Manbij to our border with Iraq and ensure that, in the first stage, one million, and then two million Syrian refugees return to their homes of their own free will,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.

Turkey plans to establish a buffer zone stretching hundreds of miles across the Turkey-Syria border to free the area of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) it considers terrorists.

Erdogan has said he wants to repatriate many of the 3.6 million refugees that it is hosting from the Syrian conflict, however critics have said it could amount to ethnic repopulation.

Overnight on Monday, the US announced sanctions against Turkey’s defence and energy ministries, as well as the ministers of defence, energy, and the interior. Trump also said he was raising sanctions on steel and cancelling a $100 billion trade agreement with Turkey. 

Erdogan appeared unmoved by the prospect, responding by saying: “We have seen all the threat from sanctions to embargoes just because we fight against terrorism,” he said.  

But privately Turkish officials are deeply concerned that widespread American sanctions could devastate Turkey’s already flagging currency and sharply drive down the Turkish lira. 

A growing number of EU states have piled on pressure, halting arms exports to Ankara over the humanitarian disaster unfolding.

The United Nations, meanwhile, is urging Turkey to investigate reported cases of “summary executions” that could have been committed by a Turkish-backed militia on Kurdish civilians.

Trump on Monday launched a diplomatic effort to broker a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish forces after more than a week of US inaction.

Trump spoke by phone to both Erdogan and the head of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and called for a halt to the Turkish offensive in Syria.  

“President Trump communicated to [Erdogan] very clearly that the US wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire, and begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria,” Mike Pence, US vice president, said.     

Pence said he would travel to Turkey at the head of a US delegation to try to broker an agreement. Earlier on Monday, the US imposed sanctions on Turkey’s defence and interior ministers in an effort to put pressure on Ankara. 

Trump’s lurch into action came eight days after he appeared to greenlight Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria by telling Erdogan that US forces would move aside and allow Turkish troops into the region.

 

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