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Resolution in U.S. Congress Opposes Trump’s Action: Syria Update

Onur Ant, Andrey Biryukov and Dana Khraiche
Resolution in U.S. Congress Opposes Trump’s Action: Syria Update

(Bloomberg) -- Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad took control of the strategic town of Manbij near the Turkish border as pressure mounted on Ankara to end an offensive that has drawn U.S. and European sanctions and accusations of war crimes.

Washington’s decision to abandon its Kurdish partners in the face of Turkey’s attack has upended old alliances and opened up a new and unpredictable phase in Syria’s eight-year-old civil war.

Kurdish-led forces, who fought with U.S. backing to defeat Islamic State, have been forced to turn to Assad for help, pulling back from the border area as Syrian government troops march in. The main Kurdish militia has warned they may not be able to secure camps and prisons holding thousands of Islamic State jihadists, including Europeans whose home countries don’t want them back.

In its strongest comments yet, Russia said the offensive was “unacceptable” and it was opposed to the presence of Turkish forces inside Syria, where years of Russian aerial support helped turn the tide of the war in favor of Assad. A top aide to Vladimir Putin said Moscow was mediating between the two sides and would not allow them to clash.

Turkey says its offensive aims to push back Kurdish militants it considers a national security threat and resettle refugees, but the costs of the operation could begin to mount.

In the clearest sign that the offensive could have an economic fallout, Volkswagen AG delayed a final decision on a 1.3 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) car plant investment in Turkey.

That followed Donald Trump’s announcement on Monday that the U.S. would impose sanctions on members of Turkey’s cabinet. European countries have also agreed to restrict arms sales to Turkey.

The lira rallied on Tuesday, however, as markets were apparently bracing for stronger measures.

Here’s a rundown of major events in Turkish local time.

Key Developments

U.S. imposes sanctions on Turkey and calls for cease-fire in northeast Syria.Volkswagen is having second-thoughts on its earlier plans for a major plant investment in Turkey amid the political chaos ensuing Ankara’s decision to send troops across the border.Russia says it is opposes to the presence of Turkish forces inside Syrian territory and won’t allow the two armies to clashU.S.-led coalition against Islamic State confirms its forces have left Manbij: Sky News ArabiaTurkish army penetrated 30-35 kilometers into Syria, reaching the southern most point set as target by policy makers.

Resolution in U.S. Congress Opposes Trump’s Action (1:24 a.m.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said a bipartisan resolution has been introduced opposing the U.S. pullout from northeast Syria, calling on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Ergodan to end unilateral military action in the area and urging the U.S. to continue supporting Kurdish communities in Syria.

“President Trump’s action not only risks regional security, it risks security in our homeland because ISIS is resurging,” the two Democratic leaders said in a statement.

The resolution also called on the U.S. to present a clear plan for the “enduring defeat of ISIS.”

Second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer said on Twitter that the chamber will vote on the resolution Wednesday.

Ex-Pentagon Chief Says Islamic State Will Rebound (8:33 p.m.)

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Islamic State will rebound now that the U.S. has backed off its support of Kurdish militias in northern Turkey that had helped defeat the terror group’s so-called caliphate.

“They’ll try to come back and we’re going to have to defend ourselves all over again but next time nobody will help us,” Carter said in an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg Television. “We’ll have to do it all by ourselves.”

Carter called Trump’s decision to pull troops back in Syria, exposing the Kurds to Turkish fire, “inexplicable.” He went on to express doubts about whether Turkey will be able to effectively defend the “safe zone” it’s trying to build in northern Syria.

U.K. Blocks Arms Exports to Turkey for Syria Use During Review (3:59 p.m.)

The U.K. blocked licenses for the export of arms to Turkey that could be used in Syria pending a review of sales to the country, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman James Slack tells reporters.

Germany’s Merkel Calls on Turkey to End Its Offensive in Syria (3:36 p.m.)

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Turkey‘s offensive in Syria needs to be stopped because it risks lives and destabilizes the region.

“This military action should be stopped, and there should be a return to negotiations,” Merkel said at a briefing alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

U.S.-Led Coalition Confirms its Forces Left Syrian Town of Manbij (3:14 p.m.)

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State has left the Turkish border town of Manbij, Sky News Arabia reported, as Assad forces took control of the area.

Russia Says Turkish Offensive is “Unacceptable” and Won’t Permit Clashes with Assad’s Forces (2:20 p.m.)

Russia branded the Turkish offensive in Syria “unacceptable,” in its strongest criticism yet of the week-old military operation. The Kremlin’s special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev, said that troops loyal to Damascus must control the country’s borders and the Kremlin opposes the presence of Turkish forces inside Syrian territory. Russia won’t permit any clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, he told reporters in Abu Dhabi, where he’s n a visit with President Vladimir Putin.

“We have always called on Turkey to exercise restraint and considered any military operation in Syria unacceptable,” Lavrentiev said. “Security along the Turkish-Syrian border must be ensured by the deployment of government troops along the whole length.”

UN Urges Turkey to Investigate Allegations of War Crimes (12:18 p.m.)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville called on Turkish authorities to launch an urgent investigation into videos that appeared to show Turkish-backed Syrian rebels carrying out executions during the offensive in Syria.

Colville said in a statement that the UN had viewed two separate videos that appear to show fighters capturing and executing three Kurdish men near the M4 highway in northern Syria.

“On the same day, we received reports indicating that a well-known Kurdish female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, was also executed on the same highway,” Colville said in a statement. “We are continuing to gather information about both these serious violations, and we urge the Turkish authorities to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into both incidents, and to apprehend those responsible, some of whom should be easily identifiable from the video footage they themselves shared on social media.”

Syrian Government Forces Taking Over Manbij (12:14 p.m.)

Syrian government forces expanded their hold over the city of Manbij and continues to deploy on the western bank of the Euphrates river in northern Syria as the U.S.-led coalition forces withdraw, according to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday the Syrian army had taken control of Manbij, official news agencies reported. They also said Syrian forces took Dadat and Umm-Miyal.

Russian military police are patrolling the northeast border of Manbij province “along the line of contact between the armed forces of the Syrian Arab Republic and those of Turkey.”

The U.S.-backed forces are still stationed on a bridge leading to the key Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border, preventing regime forces from advancing toward the area, the monitoring group said.

Turkey’s Albayrak Not Attending IMF Annual Meetings in U.S. (10:27 a.m.)

Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak won’t attend this year’s World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington D.C., according to a Treasury official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Volkswagen Postpones Decision on $1.4 Billion Turkey Car Plant (10:19 a.m.)

Volkswagen AG decided to delay a decision on a 1.3 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) car plant in Turkey due to the political upheaval caused by the country’s military action in northern Syria.

“The decision on building a new plant was postponed by the board of management,” VW said Tuesday. “We’re closely monitoring the situation and are concerned about the current developments.”

Kurdish Militants Regain Control of Key Areas in Syria, Monitoring Group Says (9:59 a.m.)

Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an offensive overnight Monday and regained control of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Haref, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It was not possible to independently verify the statement.

Qatar Defends Turkish Offensive in Syria (09:01 a.m.)

Qatar defended Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, sticking up for an ally that’s helped the Gulf emirate weather the impact of a boycott by its neighbors.

Turkey’s military incursion isn’t expansionist because it faced an “imminent threat” from Kurdish groups on its Syrian border, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in Doha.

The comments are Qatar’s first on Turkey’s controversial military operation to build what it called a “safe zone” within its neighbor and push back Kurdish groups at its southern border.

U.S. Urges Immediate Cease-Fire in Syria as It Sanctions Turkey (03:04 a.m.)

The Trump administration called on Turkey for “an immediate cease-fire” in Syria on Monday as it announced sanctions on three senior Turkish officials and sharply increased tariffs on steel in response to the military operation launched by Ankara last week.

Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to reporters, said that he would lead a delegation to Turkey at Trump’s request in an effort to stop the military advance. Pence said the U.S. wanted the two sides to negotiate a long-term peace, but he didn’t call for Turkey to pull out of Syria.

U.S. Sanctions Three Turkish Ministers, Mnuchin Says (01:10 a.m.)

The U.S. has sanctioned Turkish ministers of defense, interior and energy over Turkey’s military operation in Syria, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

--With assistance from David Westin.

To contact the reporters on this story: Onur Ant in Istanbul at oant@bloomberg.net;Andrey Biryukov in Moscow at abiryukov5@bloomberg.net;Dana Khraiche in Beirut at dkhraiche@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Bill Faries, Larry Liebert

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