WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives, with the support of both parties, approved a bill on sanctions against Turkey.
The move is aimed at reasserting congressional control over President Donald Trump’s foreign policy.
The bill, supported by house foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Elliot Engel and the Committee’s senior Republican Congressman Michael McCaul, punishes senior Turkish officials involved in deciding to invade Northern Syria and violate human rights against Kurds.
The bill was approved by 403 votes in favor of 16 against.
Trump announced that a “permanent” Turkish ceasefire had been reached with US mediation last week and lifted the sanctions imposed against Ankara with his decree.
However, US lawmakers have expressed concerns about the long-term consequences of Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to invade the area and put at risk the Kurds-US allies in the fight against the Islamic state.
Trump ordered the withdrawal of troops from Northern Syria after a telephone conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was ready to create a buffer zone in Syria and push back Kurdish troops and civilians.
“President Trump allowed Erdogan to go unpunished after a heinous attack that destabilizes the region and poses a threat to international security,” Engel said Tuesday. – President Trump and President Erdogan are responsible for the disaster in northeastern Syria. They should both be held accountable.”
At the same time, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee emphasized the bipartisan nature of the effort, saying a bill is a tool for US-Turkey negotiations.
McCaul acknowledged the “delicate nature” of Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s talks with regional entities and said the bill gives the White house additional leverage to make progress with Turkey.
“The bill creates incentives for Turkey to observe the ceasefire. If they do not comply with it, there will be consequences in the form of tough sanctions,” McCaul said on Tuesday.
The “law on protection from conflict with Turkey” provides for a ban on the sale of weapons to Ankara for use in Syria, punishing Turkish financial institutions involved in the military sector, and requires the preparation of a report on Erdogan’s assets and finances.
Engel noted that the bill also requires the Trump administration to present a comprehensive strategy to combat the resurgence of the Islamic state in the region and protect Kurdish partners.
The bill on sanctions against Turkey must be passed by the Senate and signed by the President to become law.