Thursday, 17 January, 2019

Pompeo discusses United States drawdown in Syria with Turkish counterpart

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left and his wife Susan disembark from their plane as they arrive at Abu Dhabi International Airport in Abu Dhabi Pompeo Says The U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Syria Is Just A 'Tactical Change'
Ellis Copeland | 14 January, 2019, 07:11

"There are many details to be worked out but I am optimistic we can achieve a good outcome", he said.

President Donald Trump last month announced he would withdraw United States forces from Syria, declaring they had succeeded in their mission to defeat IS and were no longer needed. "The bulk of recent attacks show how we are more committed than ever to act against Iran in Syria, as we promised".

Mr Pompeo said the withdrawal of USA troops from Syria was a "tactical change" but the mission to destroy Islamic State and counter Iran's influence remained the same.

The US decision has injected new uncertainty into the eight-year-long Syrian war and spurred a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are stationed.

The president also called for the creation of a 20-mile (30-kilometer) safe zone in Syria and said he did not want US-allied Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to seek any confrontation with Ankara.

President Donald Trump warned Turkey not to attack Kurdish forces in Syria after a planned US pullout, saying the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally would be economically devastated if it did so.

The troops in Syria have been supporting the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fight ISIS, but with the militant group all but defeated, the United States president made the surprise announcement of a total U.S. withdrawal on December 19.

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Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed Sunday that Israel had struck hundreds of Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria over the weekend, including a weapons facility, as the Israeli Defense Forces announced the discovery of a sixth and final tunnel dug by the Lebanese militant group for cross-border attacks.

Pompeo said Friday that Washington recognized "the Turkish people's right and Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists". "We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home".

Israel has generally refrained from commenting about the strikes for fear of triggering a reaction and being drawn into the deadly fighting in neighboring Syria's civil war. "After all, the Kurds are an integral part of Syrian society", Zakharova said.

Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the YPG, as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Special representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey, a former USA envoy to Turkey and Iraq, is expected to return to Turkey to continue discussions, Pompeo added.

In a rare acknowledgment that French troops were also in Syria, he said they would leave when there is a political solution in the country.

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