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US Treasury lifts sanctions off Turkey ministries

February 12, 2020 at 2:15 pm

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu speaks during an opening ceremony in Ankara, Turkey on 28 October 2019 [Evrim Aydın/Anadolu Agency]

The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has officially published a request for the government to lift economic sanctions against the Turkish ministries of Defence and Energy as well as the officials within them, as reported by the Turkish news outlet Anadolu Agency yesterday.

The sanctions were imposed on Turkey in October last year by US President Donald Trump, who announced that the sanctions would be targeting certain ministries and officials over Turkey’s military operation into north-east Syria. The officials whom the sanctions were imposed on included Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, and Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez,

They were imposed at the time for the purpose of “holding the Turkish Government accountable for escalating violence by Turkish forces, endangering innocent civilians, and destabilising the region,” according to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trade negotiations between the US and Turkey were then halted and tariffs on imports of Turkish steel were doubled.

READ: Idlib could be the greatest international failure in human history, says Turkish official

The removal of the officials’ names from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List would enable them to once again conduct business with US individuals and companies.

The move to lift the economic sanction off the Turkish ministries and their officials came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed solidarity with Turkey and its soldiers who were killed by the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad over the weekend and the past week.

“My condolences to the families of the soldiers killed in yesterday’s attack in Idlib,” wrote Pompeo, stressing that “The ongoing assaults by the Assad regime and Russia must stop. I’ve sent Jim Jeffrey to Ankara to coordinate steps to respond to this destabilizing attack. We stand by our NATO Ally.”

In the ongoing bombardment of Syria’s north-western Idlib province – the last major opposition stronghold – by the Assad regime, several Turkish soldiers have been killed over the past two weeks and over 51 Syrian soldiers have been killed by Turkish forces in response.

READ: Cold, disease threaten more than half a million Syrians fleeing Idlib fighting

Despite the fact that the province was declared a de-escalation and safe zone after an agreement was struck between Turkey and Russia back in September 2018, that deal was violated by both the Syrian regime and its ally Russia when they launched the campaign in April last year to capture the province.

With much of the country having been regained by the regime, and consequently many of the citizens again being subject to its suppression and torture, Idlib has long been in Assad’s sight. Throughout much of last year, however, the regime made little progress in retaking it from the opposition until Russian ground troops and Iranian forces became involved, helping Assad to advance into much of the province and capture many cities and areas.