US Senate committee approves Turkey sanctions bill over Russian missile system, Syria offensive

US Senate committee approves Turkey sanctions bill over Russian missile system, Syria offensive
Turkey's foreign minister has said Ankara could kick US forces out of two air bases if sanctions are imposed.
3 min read
12 December, 2019
Turkey has resisted warnings not to activate the S-400s [Getty]
A US Senate committee on Wednesday backed legislation to impose sanctions on Turkey over its purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system and offensive in Syria.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved voted by 18-4 to send the "Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019" for a vote in the Senate, Reuters reported.

It is the latest measure urging President Donald Trump to put serious pressure on Turkey over its assault on the US-backed, Kurdish-led forces in Syria and controversial purchase of the Russian missile defence system.

"Now's the time for the Senate to come together and take this opportunity to change Turkey's behaviour," said Senator Jim Risch, the committee's Republican chairman and a lead sponsor of the bill along with Senator Bob Menendez, the panel's top Democrat.

Support for Trump to pursue a harder line against Ankara has been bipartisan, with both Republicans and Democrats for example opposing the president's decision to withdraw troops from northeastern Syria, a measure widely seen as giving a green light for Turkey's assault against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The SDF were a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State group, but Ankara had long protested against Western states backing the group due to links between its main constitutent, the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG), and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), both of which Turkey considers terrorist organisations.

Turkey's purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defence system has seen the US threaten sanctions. Ankara went ahead with the purchase earlier this year despite repeat US warnings, although Turkey was suspended from the F-35 fighter jet programme over the purchase.

"This is not some minor dustup with this country. This is a drift by this country, Turkey, to go in an entirely different direction than what they have in the past," Risch said.

"They've thumbed their nose at us, and they've thumbed their nose at their other NATO allies," he said.

To become law, the bill would need to pass through the House of Representatives - which earlier this year approved its own Turkey sanctions measure with an overwhelming majority - and be signed by Trump.

Analysts say Turkey has not been deterred by the threat of sanctions. Ankara has also ignored threats of sanctions by the European Union over its drilling for gas and oil off the coast of Cyprus.

Earlier on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US could be barred from two strategic air bases in Turkey if sanctions were to be imposed.

"Congress members must understand that it is not possible to get anywhere with sanctions," he said.

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