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Marsha Blackburn joins Chris Van Hollen, Lindsey Graham in Bipartisan Inquiry into Turkey’s Violations of Ceasefire Agreement

 

U.S. SenateWashington, D.C. – On Wednesday, November 6th, 2019, U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about reports of ongoing attacks against the Syrian Kurds by Turkey and its proxies outside of the designated safe zone.

These attacks, if true, would violate the ceasefire agreements and should prompt immediate action from the Administration.

Senator Marsha Blackburn.

Senator Marsha Blackburn.

“Given the stakes, time is of the essence,” the Senators write. “We ask that you immediately let us know if Turkey and/or its proxy forces are operating outside of the area that runs east-west between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain and south about 30 kilometers to the M4-M10 road. If so, does the Administration plan to impose sanctions on Turkey for violating the October 17 agreement?”

“On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to ‘destroy Turkey’s economy’ should Turkey violate its obligations. In keeping with this position, we ask that the Administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17th 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,” they added.

The full text of the letter is available below and here.

Dear Secretary Pompeo:

We write regarding reports that Turkey and Turkish-backed forces are operating outside the agreed “safe zone” in northeast Syria. We ask that the Administration take immediate action against Turkey if these reports are true.

There have been numerous accounts that Turkish and/or Turkish-backed forces are attacking Syrian Kurds near Tal Tamr. If true, these attacks would violate the separate ceasefire agreements Ankara forged with both Washington and Moscow.

As you underscored with Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu on October 31st, the United States expects Turkey and Turkish-supported forces to adhere to the agreement reached on October 17th. Ambassador James Jeffrey recently testified that this agreement required the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units and the Syrian Democratic Forces to withdraw “roughly 120 kilometers wide and 30 kilometers deep” in northeast Syria. He stated that the safe zone established between the United States and Turkey extends south to the M4-M10 road. According to the agreement announced by Russia, this safe zone would exist between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain.  President Donald Trump subsequently also cited these safe zone parameters and the town of Tal Tamr, the site of reported recent attacks, is outside of the designated safe zone.

In response to a question from Senator Van Hollen at a recent hearing, Ambassador Jeffrey asserted that if Turkey violated the terms of the safe zone agreement his recommendation “would be to return to the sanctions, and that’s where I strongly believe the administration is right now.”

Given the stakes, time is of the essence. We ask that you immediately let us know if Turkey and/or its proxy forces are operating outside of the area that runs east-west between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain and south about 30 kilometers to the M4-M10 road. If so, does the Administration plan to impose sanctions on Turkey for violating the October 17th agreement?

On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to “destroy Turkey’s economy” should Turkey violate its obligations. In keeping with this position, we ask that the Administration take swift measures to enforce the October 17th 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. 


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