U.S. Senators urge State Department to sanction Turkey if it is breaking Syria agreement

Bipartisan U.S. Senators have urged President Donald Trump’s administration to investigate reports that the Turkish military has violated an agreement with Washington to halt its military operation in northeast Syria and to respond with sanctions if they are true.

Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen, Richard Blumenthal and Jeanne Shaheen told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “time is of the essence” to look into the reports and impose measures against Turkey, Reuters said.

The United States and Turkey reached an agreement on Oct. 17 to halt the Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurdish-led forces that had played a key role in the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State.

The agreement left a 30-km deep, 120-km-wide area under direct Turkish control, but warned that the United States would impose devastating sanctions if Turkey breached the terms of the deal.

This week, outlets including the Wall Street Journal reported that Turkish forces had advanced beyond the reach of the zone to the edge of Tel Tamr, a strategic town held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and Syrian government forces.

“On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to ‘destroy Turkey’s economy’ should Turkey violate its obligations,” the senators wrote in the letter.

“In keeping with this position, we ask that the administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17 agreement with tough economic sanctions,” they said.

Meanwhile, a motion passed by the House of Representatives last week to sanction Turkey over its military operation will not move to the Senate until after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Washington on Nov. 13, a report in Politico said.