US senators resume work on Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire: report

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Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Sate, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks during a hearing. Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP

US senators are vowing to move forward with sanctions legislation against Turkey despite Vice President Mike Pence’s announcement that Ankara has agreed to a ceasefire in Syria, The Hill reported.

Sen. Lindsey Graham and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, who have each released separate sanctions bills, both said they would continue working on their bills despite the ceasefire.

“We’re going to keep working,” Graham said in response to questions about his legislative efforts.

On his bill Risch said, “We’re going to keep putting one foot in front of the other to move the bill.”

“There are other issues obviously than just a ceasefire that need to be addressed,” added Risch, saying other issues include the security of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) prisoners and the safety of the Kurds. “This bill will encourage those parties to embrace not only a ceasefire, but an overall settlement in the dispute there.”

At a news conference in Ankara following more than five hours of negotiation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Pence said Erdoğan agreed to halt Turkey’s offensive in Syria for 120 hours in order to allow Kurdish forces to evacuate. The agreement will also maintain a “permanent cease-fire” once the evacuation is complete.

In exchange, President Donald Trump will lift the sanctions on Turkey he imposed this week and will not impose further sanctions, Pence said.

Turkey launched an offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces last week following Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, a move widely seen as giving a green light for Erdoğan to proceed with a long-threatened invasion.

Graham’s bill, introduced with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, would target Turkey’s energy sector and military as well as assets of top Turkish officials within US jurisdiction and limit their ability to travel to the United States. It would also require a strategy to prevent an ISIL resurgence and prohibit arms sales to Turkey.

“This is a second betrayal. Why is it that every time Erdogan speaks to Trump/Pence, we accede to Turkey’s full demands?” Van Hollen tweeted on Friday. “This makes it imperative that Congress immediately pass the tough bipartisan sanctions bill I introduced with @LindseyGrahamSC.”

Risch’s bill, introduced with his committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), would require a comprehensive counter-ISIL strategy, mandate a report on potential Turkish war crimes, restrict arms sale to Turkey, sanction senior Turkish officials and require a report on Turkey’s participation in NATO, among other things.

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