Pom­peo, in Iraq, seeks to re­as­sure Kurds on Syria with­drawal

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

SEC­RE­TARY of State Mike Pom­peo sought Wednesday to re­as­sure U.s.-backed Kur­dish forces in Syria that they will be safe af­ter Amer­i­can troops with­draw from the coun­try.

Amid con­fu­sion over plans to im­ple­ment Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pull­out or­der and threats from Turkey to at­tack the Kurds, Pom­peo made an unan­nounced stop in Iraq while on a week­long trip to the Mid­dle East aimed at as­suag­ing the fears of Wash­ing­ton’s Arab part­ners that the US is aban­don­ing the re­gion or walk­ing away from the fight against the Is­lamic State group.

“These have been folks that have fought with us and it’s im­por­tant that we do ev­ery­thing we can to en­sure that those folks that fought with us are pro­tected,” Pom­peo said of the Kurds while vis­it­ing Ir­bil, the cap­i­tal of Iraq’s semi-au­ton­o­mous Kur­dis­tan re­gion, af­ter talks in Baghdad.

His com­ments were sim­i­lar to those made ear­lier in the week by Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, John Bolton, who said on vis­its to Is­rael and Turkey that pro­tect­ing the Kurds is a pri­or­ity for the US even as it moves to with­draw some 2,000 Amer­i­can troops from Syria. Bolton’s com­ments drew a quick re­jec­tion from Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, who said they were a “se­ri­ous mis­take” and that Turkey “can­not make any con­ces­sions in this re­gard.” Turkey re­gards the Kurds as ter­ror­ists and has vowed to at­tack them. Pom­peo, how­ever, down­played Er­do­gan’s re­sponse to Bolton and pre­dicted that any dif­fer­ences could be ironed out in up­com­ing talks be­tween the US spe­cial en­voy for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, and Turk­ish and Kur­dish of­fi­cials.

“Er­do­gan has made com­mit­ments; he un­der­stands that - I think he uses the lan­guage - he talks about he has no beef with the Kurds. We want to make sure that that’s the case, and I’m con­fi­dent that as Ambassador Jeffrey and oth­ers travel through the re­gion in the days ahead, we’ll make real progress on that,” Pom­peo said.

Still, Turk­ish For­eign Min­is­ter Mev­lut Cavu­soglu said Wednesday that Turkey will not re­frain from mil­i­tary ac­tion to pro­tect its bor­ders from what he de­scribes as threats posed by Syr­ian Kur­dish fight­ers. The Turk­ish re­buffs con­tinue to am­plify a rift be­tween the NATO al­lies and raise new ques­tions about how the United States would pro­tect fight­ers who are U.S. al­lies in the war against the Is­lamic State group. Ear­lier in Baghdad, Pom­peo said he told Iraqi of­fi­cials that “the fight to counter Iran is real and im­por­tant.”

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