U.S. special envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, has signaled that Ankara might face sanctions if the Turkish military carries out a fresh operation in the war-torn country and breaks its “ceasefire” with the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Jeffrey recalled that the U.S. had in October removed sanctions imposed on Turkish ministers following Turkey's pause in military operations in Syria.
On Oct. 23, 2019, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Turkey said it is stopping combat operations and making a ceasefire in northern Syria “permanent.”
“I have, therefore, instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to lift all sanctions imposed October 14th in response to Turkey’s original offensive moves against the Kurds,” Trump said, referring to the incursion that Turkey launched to clear its border from the YPG.
Jeffrey however implied in a fresh statement on Feb. 5 that the U.S. would reimpose sanctions on Turkey if its “ceasefire” with the YPG was no longer in place.
“You remember we sanctioned certain Turkish officials, including the minister of defense at the time. And then we removed those sanctions when we got the ceasefire, but that executive order remains in place. It gives us broad authority to go after people who are not supporting the political process and particularly not supporting the ceasefire. So we’re looking at what we can do about that,” Jeffrey told reporters during a press conference in Washington D.C.
Turkey launched its offensive called Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9, 2019 following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region. After Turkey's move, Trump announced sanctions aimed at restraining Ankara's operation against the YPG.
The U.S. called on Turkey to stop the military operation and declare a ceasefire, leading Trump to send Vice President Mike Pence and national security adviser Robert O’Brien to Ankara in an attempt to begin negotiations.
On Oct. 14, 2019, Pence said Trump spoke directly to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who promised not attack the border town of Kobani, which in 2015 witnessed the ISIS's first defeat in a battle by U.S.-backed YPG fighters.
Three days later in Ankara, Pence and Erdoğan agreed on a pause of operations for 120 hours while the YPG withdrew from the area.
Following the Pence-Erdoğan meeting, Trump said Ankara has guaranteed that a temporary cease-fire in the area will be “permanent.”
“The sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we are not happy with,” Trump said at the White House.