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November 12, 2019
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Trump calls Turkey to stop Syrian operation, imposes new sanctions

US President Donald Trump has called for an immediate halt to Turkey’s strikes against Kurds in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally. Vice President Mike Pence is set to lead a mediation effort between the two countries.

Washington is “simply not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any longer,” US Vice President Mike Pence told reporters on Monday. Pence said President Donald Trump had discussed the offensive in a phone call with his Turkish colleague Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Pence said Trump wanted Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces to end the violence in Syria.

“The United States of America did not give a green light for Turkey to invade Syria,” Pence told reporters in front of the White House.

Pence also said he would be leaving for the Middle East “as quickly as possible” to lead a mediation effort.

“We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table,” he added.

There was no immediate comment from Ankara.

Earlier, Trump slammed Turkey’s actions in Syria as “dangerous” and warned that “targeting of ethnic or religious minorities is unacceptable.”

“Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Trump’s reaction comes just over a week after the withdrawal of the US troops from the Kurdish-populated areas in northeast Syria. Days later, Turkey began moving troops across the border and launched its campaign against the Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara believes to be a terrorist organization.

In his statement, Trump said he would be issuing an order to impose sanctions against “current and former officials of the Government of Turkey and any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions.”

The measures later announced by the Treasury Department target the Turkish Defense Ministry and its head, Hulusi Akar, and the Energy Ministry and its minister, Fatih Donmez. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was also sanctioned.  The sanctions freeze these entities’ assets in the United States and generally prohibit foreign financial institutions from conducting financial transactions on their behalf.

Trump also pledged to raise steel tariffs to 50% and to halt talks on a $100 billion trade deal between Washington and Ankara.

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” he said.

Trump then slammed European countries for rejecting to take in former IS members as prisoners.

“They probably figured the US would bear the tremendous cost as always.”

Trump has faced a slew of criticism over the pullout of US troops from Syria, which was widely seen as a signal to Turkish authorities to launch their military operation. On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron also told Trump it was “absolutely necessary” to stop the resurgence of the IS group.

Alongside criticism from his political opponents and international allies, senior members of Trump’s Republican Party have also voiced their opposition to the move.