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National Security & Defense

Pence Says US Will Withdraw New Turkey Sanctions Despite Bipartisan Opposition

Vice President Mike Pence walks outside in Munich, Germany, February 16, 2019. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw existing Turkish sanctions and will not impose any additional ones after Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire with Kurdish forces in Syria.

Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for several hours on Thursday and agreed on the brief ceasefire agreement, which gives Kurdish fighters 120 hours to leave the 20-mile-wide occupied zone along the Turkey-Syria border.

“Once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent cease-fire,” Pence said.

Earlier Thursday, a pair of bipartisan senators introduced legislation to slap additional sanctions on Ankara as Turkey continues its offensive into northern Syria following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) introduced a bill that would saddle Turkey with sanctions on its energy sector, defense department, as well as several of its top government officials.

Graham, a frequent Trump ally but recently a fierce critic of the president’s foreign policy in Syria, promised the new sanctions would be “wide-ranging and hard-hitting” and would “supplement” existing sanctions on Turkey.

“If you continue on the course you’re on, you will have brought a lot of damage to the nation, you’ll abandon a valuable ally, set in motion the re-emergence of ISIS, and Mr. President, as much as I like you and want to work with you, I am going to be consistent,” Graham said from the Senate floor as he introduced the measure. “I will hold you accountable.”

Trump has called the Kurds “no angels” and said he does not want the U.S. to “police” the area any longer. However, he vowed to punish Turkey if the country takes any action the U.S. considers “off limits.”

“There’s a lot of sand that they can play with,” Trump said Wednesday. “Let them fight their own wars.”

Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) also voiced support for the new sanctions.

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