Thu, 06 May 2021

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a measure Wednesday that would impose sanctions on Turkey following its military offensive in northern Syria and plans to buy a Russian missile system.

The bill, designed to pressure Republican President Donald Trump to adopt a more hardline stance against Turkey, now goes to the full Senate for a vote.

The committee passed the legislation as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Turkey may impose restrictions on the U.S. military's use of Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey near Syria.

The base has been a longstanding symbol of U.S.-Turkish cooperation since the height of the Cold War.

Senator Jim Risch, the committee's Republican chairman, said, "Now's the time for the Senate to come together and take this opportunity to change Turkey's behavior."

Risch told VOA after the vote that the Turks must do "what they believe should be done" with respect to the base.

"We are certainly not trying to interfere with the sovereign decisions that Turkey wants to make, Risch said. "They just need to understand that every single decision has consequences."

Risch also said the bill received "strong support" from the committee, but he declined to speculate as to when it will come before the full Senate for a vote.

Republican Senator Rand Paul criticized the bill. He said the Trump administration is opposed to it because it would weaken Trump's authority and could complicate negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on matters such as the NATO ally's purchase of the missile system and fighting in Syria.

While some senators strongly disagreed, other lawmakers from both major parties are angry about Turkey's purchase of Russia's S-400 missile system, which they see as a threat to NATO systems.

They also are furious about Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, who until recently were fighting alongside American forces against Islamic State militants.

VOA's Turkish Service contributed to this report.

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