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American ShipperNewsTrade and ComplianceTrucking RegulationTrucking Risk & Compliance

US limits sanctions to Turkish defense, energy ministries

The Trump administration takes aim at financial assets of Turkish government agencies and officials linked to military strikes in Syria, but Congress may legislate broader sanctions in the days ahead.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on Oct. 14 imposed economic sanctions on Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, as well as three senior government officials. 

The financial sanctions came in response to President Trump’s Oct. 11 executive order to punish the Turkish government after its recent military strikes in Syria. 

OFAC added the two Turkish ministries, along with Hulusi Akar, minister of national defense; Suleyman Soylu, minister of interior; and Fatih Donmez, minister of energy, to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List

Placement on the SDN List blocks any assets or investments that these two Turkish ministries and three government individuals may have in the U.S. and prevents U.S. persons or companies from conducting business. 

The Treasury Department warned that U.S. and foreign entities or persons that engage in financial transactions with these listed entities risk being subject to sanctions themselves. 

To minimize the sanctions’ impact to Turkey’s domestic energy sector, the Treasury Department said it issued three general licenses: 

  • General License 1 allows U.S. government employees, grantees and contractors to conduct business with the two designated Turkish ministries otherwise prohibited by the order. 
  • General License 2 provides a 30-day “wind-down” period for business operations, contracts or other agreements involving Turkey’s National Defense and Energy and Natural Resources ministries. 
  • General License 3 authorizes official activities of the U.N. involving the two Turkish ministries. 

“We are prepared to impose additional sanctions on government of Turkey officials and entities as necessary,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The Trump administration’s sanctions, however, fall short of the legislation introduced on Oct. 9 by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., that seeks to impose wider and more severe economic sanctions against Turkey. The senators are preparing to push their legislation through Congress this week. 

The Graham-Van Hollen Turkey Sanctions Bill would place immediate sanctions on numerous senior Turkish government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as prohibit all U.S. military business and transactions with Turkey and activate the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) on Turkey. 

Turkey immediately took military action after President Trump on Oct. 9 signed an executive order to remove U.S. troops from Syria and added that the Kurds would be on their own to defend themselves.

“The idea that the [Trump] administration is now going to sanction Turkey to protect the Kurdish people rings totally hollow,” Van Hollen said in an Oct. 12 statement. “I’m continuing to work on bipartisan legislation to immediately apply tough sanctions against Turkey until it ends its aggression and withdraws.”

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Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.

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