Pom­peo op­ti­mistic over Turkey and Syr­ian Kurd deal

The Jerusalem Post - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS - • By LES­LEY WROUGHTON

ABU DHABI (Reuters) – US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said on Satur­day that he was op­ti­mistic a “good out­come” could be reached be­tween Turkey and Syr­ian Kur­dish groups, af­ter he spoke to the Turk­ish for­eign min­is­ter.

“We rec­og­nize the Turk­ish peo­ple’s right to de­fend their coun­try from ter­ror­ists, but we also know that those... who are not ter­ror­ists and fight­ing along­side us for all this time de­serve to be pro­tected,” Pom­peo told re­porters.

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

Re­la­tions be­tween the two NATO al­lies have been strained over US back­ing for the Kur­dish YPG, which Turkey views as an ex­ten­sion of the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers Party (PKK) wag­ing a decades-long in­sur­gency on Turk­ish soil.

Pom­peo said his phone call with For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu in­volved sev­eral el­e­ments of US-Turkey re­la­tions, in­clud­ing Syria and the de­ten­tion of Amer­i­cans in Turkey.

He said the US en­voy for Syria, Jim Jef­frey, had trav­eled to north­east Syria this week and would soon go to Ankara for talks, in­clud­ing on mov­ing for­ward a UN-led po­lit­i­cal process to end the eight-year long con­flict in Syria.

He sug­gested that talks be­tween Da­m­as­cus and the Syr­ian Kurds could be part of a broader po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion in Syria.

“We hope we can turn the cor­ner here,” Pom­peo added.

Kur­dish-led groups who con­trol swaths of north­ern Syria fear an attack from Turkey in the wake of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw troops from their re­gion. Turkey sees the Kur­dish YPG mili­tia close to its bor­der as a se­cu­rity threat.

Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw the troops hinges on Turkey’s co­op­er­a­tion to se­cure the north­ern bor­der. But Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan has vowed to crush the Kur­dish groups that have been ef­fec­tive in de­feat­ing Is­lamic State in Syria.

Speak­ing in Abu Dhabi as part of a regional tour, Pom­peo said the with­drawal of US troops from Syria was a “tac­ti­cal change” but the mis­sion to de­stroy Is­lamic State and counter Iran’s in­flu­ence re­mained the same.

In a speech in Cairo on Thurs­day, Pom­peo vowed that the United States would “ex­pel ev­ery last Ira­nian boot” from Syria.

(An­drew Ca­ballero-Reynolds/Reuters)

CROWN PRINCE Mo­hammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan greets US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo yes­ter­day at Al-Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emi­rates.

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