By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump will sign off on authorities to allow his administration to impose sanctions on Turkey and its leaders for Ankara's ongoing Operation Peace Spring, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday.
He announced the forthcoming authorities, saying Trump has authorized the executive order that will allow the Treasury in consultation with the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "very significant new sanctions authorities that can be targeted at any person associated with the government of Turkey, any portion of the government."
"The president is concerned about the ongoing military offensive and potential targeting of civilians, civilian infrastructure, ethnic or religious minorities, and also the president wants to make very clear it is imperative that Turkey not allow even a single ISIS fighter to escape,” Mnuchin said, using another name for Daesh.
Mnuchin noted that no sanctions have yet been imposed "but as the president has said he will provide very significant authorities based upon the continuing efforts.”
In the face of bipartisan pressure from lawmakers, Trump warned Turkey would face economic consequences should it act in a way he deems to be unnecessary.
Turkey on Wednesday launched Operation Peace Spring east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria to secure its borders by eliminating terrorist elements and to ensure the safe return of Syrian refugees and Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants to eliminate terrorist elements from the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD-YPG.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.
Turkey has a 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria and has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates River and the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.
It plans to resettle two million Syrians in a 30-km (19-mile) wide proposed safe zone in Syria stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border, including Manbij. However, the presence of terror groups such as the PKK, PYD and YPG risk its formation.
Turkey has freed an area of 4,000 square km (1,544 square miles) in Syria from terrorist groups in two separate cross-border operations.
Since 2016, Turkey has conducted two major military operations in northwestern Syria — Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch — to eradicate threats from Daesh and the YPG, which is the Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.