Friday, 16 November, 2018

US Secretary of State arrives in Cairo to start Mideast tour

US FM to visit Jordan next week S Secretary Tillerson to travel to Middle East
Ellis Copeland | 12 February, 2018, 13:00

In Kuwait City, Tillerson will meet Kuwaiti officials who are attempting to mediate a resolution to disagreements between Qatar against its Arab neighbors Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He will also meet with senior officials from Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait.

"At times like this, engagement is all the more important", said a State Department official on Friday, while acknowledging, "It's going to be a hard conversation". Yet they have diverging interests in the Syrian civil war, with Washington focused on defeating Islamic State and Ankara keen to prevent Syria's Kurds from gaining autonomy and fuelling Kurdish insurgents on Turkish soil. The rhetoric is hot.

US citizen Serkan Golge, a NASA scientist who was arrested in July 2016, was convicted without credible evidence on February 8 by Turkish authorities for being a member of a terror organization.

He will also discuss the status of forces in northern Syria with Turkish leadership; continue discussions with senior Egyptian officials on the Middle East peace process; attend a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait City; and make a rare stop in Beirut - the first such visit there by a USA secretary of state since 2014. "The Turks are angry, and this is a hard time to do business but it's our belief that there are still some very fundamental underlying shared interests".

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In Egypt, as well as in Kuwait, Lebanon and Jordan - the tour's other Arab stops - Tillerson will nearly certainly hear misgivings about US President Donald Trump's recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, The move angered Washington's Arab allies, and undermined the chances of a timely resumption of long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Kilic is facing terrorism charges.

An unnamed State Department official told the newspaper that Washington's top diplomat has "not ruled out" also making a pit stop in Jerusalem for talks after a dramatic confrontation Saturday between Israel, Syria and Iran.

"And we have noted our concerns about the reports that Egypt's prosecutor general has launched an investigation into opposition figures ahead of the March 26th through 28th elections".

Briefing reporters late last week on the secretary's upcoming travel, senior State Department officials downplayed Tillerson's original decision not to visit Israel this time around.

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