In a top-level US Senate hearing with Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State, on the changing role of Turkey in global affairs, Senators heavily criticized Turkish actions under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling Turkish human rights abuses and violations “the actions of a weak government.” Several Senators discussed North and East Syria, indicating that Turkey’s actions in the region were “unacceptable.”

“Erdogan sees his country as on par with the great powers of the world. It is not,” said Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Committee. “President Erdogan has tragically shredded its democratic institutions, imprisoned journalists. He has targeted his political opposition for arrest, and sought to silence university professors. To say that more lawyers and journalists are arrested and in jail in Turkey than in any other place in the world is saying something, considering some of those other places in the world. These are the actions of a weak government, not a world power.”

“It is very painful to see the country deteriorate as it has deteriorated, and left the commitments that we, all of the NATO partners, have had,” said Senator James Risch, Ranking Member and former head of the Committee.

“In Syria, the United States and Turkey remain at cross purposes. Through multiple military interventions, some of which were directly green-lighted by the previous administration, Turkey has created several zones of control in northern Syria… They have done so at a horrific cost to the local Kurdish population, who have endured forced displacement and kidnappings, unlawful detention and torture, illegal property seizures, and numerous other human rights violations at the hands of Turkish-backed opposition forces,” said Senator Menendez.

“Beyond the considerable human rights concerns, these actions undermine the United States’ counterterrorism partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces in our shared fight against the Islamic State,” said Senator Menendez. “This is also unacceptable.”