Turkey denounced US senators on Thursday after they backed legislation to impose sanctions over its military offensive in northern Syria and the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile system.
The Republican-led Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 18-4 to send the “Promoting American National Security and Preventing the Resurgence of ISIS Act of 2019” for a vote in the full Senate.
It was the latest move to push US President Donald Trump to take a harder line against Turkey.
The Turkish foreign ministry described the latest initiatives in Congress as “a new manifestation of disrespect for our sovereign decisions regarding our national security”.
“These initiatives do not have any function other than to harm Turkish-US relations,” it said in a statement, calling on Congress to act with common sense.
Turkey – which has not wavered from its plans to buy the Russian missile defence system despite President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to the White House, earlier vowed to retaliate against any US sanctions over its purchase of the S-400s and said economic penalties would not affect the deployment.
“It is understood that members of Congress have shut their eyes and ears to the truth,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said.
Senator Jim Risch, the panel’s Republican chairman, was a lead sponsor of the bill with Senator Bob Menendez, its top Democrat.
“Now’s the time for the Senate to come together and take this opportunity to change Turkey’s behaviour,” said Risch.
“This is not some minor dustup with this country. This is a drift by this country, Turkey, to go in an entirely different direction than what they have in the past. They’ve thumbed their nose at us, and they’ve thumbed their nose at their other NATO allies,” he said.
Another Republican, Senator Rand Paul, opposed the sanctions. He said it would weaken the president’s power and could make it more difficult to negotiate with Erdogan on matters such as the NATO ally’s purchase of the missile system and fighting in Syria.
Fighting the Kurds
But other senators strongly disagreed. Many legislators, Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, are angry about Turkey’s S-400 purchase, which they see as a threat to NATO defences.
They also criticised Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey’s offensive in the area against Kurdish militias, who until recently were fighting alongside American forces against ISIL (ISIS) rebels.
Washington suspended Ankara from the US F-35 stealth fighter jet programme, in which it was a producer and buyer, to penalise it for buying S-400 batteries this year.
The US maintains the system could be used by Russia to covertly obtain classified details on the F35s. Turkey, however, counters the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Moscow hopes to seal a deal to supply Turkey with more S-400 systems in the first half of next year, the head of Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said last month.