US sanctions fail to slow Turkish assault, Latest World News - The New Paper

US sanctions fail to slow Turkish assault

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Ankara presses on with assault while critics say Washington's moves to punish Turkey are too feeble

ANKARA/WASHINGTON: Turkey ignored new sanctions from the US to press on with its assault on northern Syria yesterday, while the Russia-backed Syrian army entered one of the most hotly contested cities, filling a void created by US President Donald Trump's abrupt retreat.

A week after reversing US policy and moving troops out of the way to allow Turkey to attack the US' allies in northern Syria, Mr Trump announced sanctions to punish Turkey.

But markets shrugged off the announcement and Mr Trump's critics said the moves were too feeble. The Turkish lira actually went up, with traders noting Mr Trump had spared Turkish banks from punishment.

One of the most important flashpoints is the city of Manbij, west of the Euphrates river, which Turkey has vowed to capture. The area had been patrolled jointly by US and Turkish forces under a deal aiming to persuade Turkey not to invade.

The Russian-backed Syrian forces appear to have moved swiftly to fill the void left by departing Americans.


State TV aired footage of what it said was government troops entering the city. A resident told Reuters the Syrian troops were on its outskirts.

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters said they would continue their advance towards Manbij and said the troops that had entered were mostly Kurdish fighters now allied to the government.

Reuters yesterday reported heavy bombardment of the Syrian border town of Ras al Ain, where a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said a fierce battle was taking place.

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Mrs Nancy Pelosi, said the sanctions were too little, too late.

"(Mr Trump's) announcement of a package of sanctions against Turkey falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster," she said.

Turkey said it aims to defeat the Kurdish YPG militia, which it sees as terrorists for its links to separatists in Turkey and to create a "safe zone" where Syrian refugees can be resettled.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has pledged to continue military operations, said he was giving the world a "second chance" to bring peace to the region.

"The international community missed its opportunity to prevent the Syrian crisis from pulling an entire region into a maelstrom of instability," he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

"The European Union - and the world - should support what Turkey is trying to do."

Trump allies say Washington had not given its blessing to the Turkish offensive and demanded a ceasefire.

US Vice-President Mike Pence said: "We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table."

Mr Trump's sanctions include reimposing steel tariffs and halting talks on a US$100 billion (S$137 billion) trade deal. - REUTERS