On October 23, 2019, the Trump Administration rescinded the designation of Turkish officials and ministries.  The Executive Order remains in force, and so authority to re-impose sanctions remains.

On October 14, President Trump issued Executive Order 13894, styled “Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria.”  Under this order, OFAC designated the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Turkish Ministry of Defense, and the Ministers of the Interior, Energy and Natural Resources, and Defense for blocking sanctions.  This prohibits not only transactions with the relevant ministries and ministers (including in their official capacities) but any state-owned enterprise in which a 50% or greater interest held through those ministries.  OFAC also issued three general licenses providing a 30-day wind-down period for existing contracts with the sanctioned ministries or entities and permitting official U.S. government functions and certain international organization activities to continue, and OFAC has indicated that it is prepared to issue specific or general licenses to ensure that Turkey is still able to meet its energy needs.

The Executive Order gives broad authority to impose sanctions against a wide range of individuals and activities, including:

  • Persons threatening the peace, security, stability, or territorial integrity of Syria
  • Persons committing serious human rights abuses
  • Current of former officials of the Government of Turkey
  • Agencies and instrumentalities of the Government of Turkey
  • Sectors of the Turkish economy to be designated
  • Menu-based sanctions against persons responsible for, complicit in, or financing
    • Obstruction, disruption, or prevention of a ceasefire in northern Syria
    • Intimidation or prevention of Syrian refugees from returning to Syria
    • Forcing persons or refugees to return to Syria
    • Obstruction, disruption, or prevention of efforts to promote a political solution to the Syrian conflict
    • Expropriation of property for personal gain or political purposes in Syria

As has long been standard, the Executive Order also provides for the imposition of sanctions against persons found “to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of,” any person blocked under the order.  In what may be becoming standard language, the Executive Order also provides for the imposition of correspondent account sanctions on any financial institution facilitating a significant transaction for a blocked person (whether or not the transaction falls within U.S. jurisdiction); that authority was probably already implicit in the broader boilerplate but is now being made explicit.

The authority to impose sanctions provided by the Executive Order is broad, but of course the impact depends upon the scope of the actual designations pursuant to it, which as noted above primarily affect the Turkish state military and energy and natural resources sectors.  A number of bills targeting Turkey for sanctions have been introduced in Congress, with bipartisan support, but it remains to be seen whether any of them will progress and in what form.  The situation continues to evolve rapidly.