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Senators urge 'tough economic sanctions' if Turkey violated ceasefire

The Hill logo The Hill 11/6/2019 Rebecca Kheel
Chris Van Hollen, Lindsey Graham, Jeanne Shaheen are posing for a picture: Senators urge 'tough economic sanctions' if Turkey violated ceasefire © Greg Nash Senators urge 'tough economic sanctions' if Turkey violated ceasefire

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on reports of Turkish violations of a ceasefire in northern Syria, urging the administration to respond with "tough economic sanctions."

"On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to 'destroy Turkey's economy' should Turkey violate its obligations," the senators wrote in a letter to Pompeo on Wednesday. "In keeping with this position, we ask that the Administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17 agreement with tough economic sanctions. In the meantime, we will continue to work in Congress on the passage of a bipartisan sanctions bill to protect our allies and uphold the credibility of the United States."

The letter was organized by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and was co-signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

The same group sponsored one of the Turkey sanctions bills that have been introduced in the Senate in response to Turkey's offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

The House last week passed a Turkey sanctions bill by a large bipartisan majority. Van Hollen and Graham have both said they would support bringing the House bill for a vote in the Senate, but efforts at Turkey sanctions in the upper chamber have stalled amid warnings from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) against rushing to sanction a NATO ally.

Trump had imposed sanctions on Turkey after its offensive but lifted them as part of a ceasefire agreement brokered by Vice President Pence.

In their letter, the senators cite reports of Turkey or Turkish-backed forces attacking Kurdish forces near Tal Tamr, which is outside the agreed-upon safe zone.

"If true, these attacks would violate the separate ceasefire agreements Ankara forged with both Washington and Moscow," they wrote.

The senators asked Pompeo to "immediately" answer whether Turkey or its proxy forces are operating outside of the safe zone and whether the administration will impose sanctions on Turkey for violating the agreement.

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