US seeking to ensure ‘Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds’ in Syria

Pompeo said he would not give a more precise timeline for troop withdrawal from Syria. (AFP)
Updated 04 January 2019
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US seeking to ensure ‘Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds’ in Syria

  • Pompeo referenced the growing fears for Kurdish fighters in Syria as he defended Trump’s decision to withdraw from the country

WASHINGTON: The United States is speaking to Turkey to ensure it does not “slaughter” Kurds in Syria as US troops leave, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday.
Pompeo referenced the growing fears for US-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria as he defended President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw from the war-battered country.
“The importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds, the protection of religious minorities there in Syria. All of those things are still part of the American mission set,” Pompeo told Newsmax, a US news and opinion site popular with conservatives.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis resigned over Trump’s withdrawal order, angering the president who nonetheless later indicated he would slow down the planned exit.
Pompeo in the interview said that the withdrawal would go ahead but he would not give a more precise timeline so as not to tip off US adversaries.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to rid Syria of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which he sees as linked to the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a bloody insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
The Kurdish fighters formed the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who with Washington’s backing have battled the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group and seized about a quarter of Syria.
Syria’s government said Wednesday that the YPG fighters have left Manbij, a key city seized from IS near the Turkish border, in light of the planned US pullout.
Trump, who declared that US troops were no longer needed as IS was defeated, spoke to Erdogan before his troop decision.
But Pompeo said the United States still had “real concerns” with Erdogan, including on detentions of US citizens.
“There are lots of places where we need to work with President Erdogan and the Turkish leadership to get good outcomes for the United States,” Pompeo said.
National security adviser John Bolton and the US pointman on Syria, Jim Jeffrey, are both due to hold talks next week in Turkey.


Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

Updated 23 March 2019
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Security tops agenda as Iraqi PM visits Egypt in first foreign trip

  • After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism”
  • The visit to Egypt is Abdul Mahdi’s first trip abroad since taking office in October

CAIRO: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sought Egypt’s support for efforts to tackle extremist militants in the region during a visit to Cairo on Saturday, his first trip abroad since taking office in October.
After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Abdul Mahdi highlighted “the importance of drying up the sources of terrorism” and said “cooperation between Egypt and Iraq will be essential for this matter,” according to an official statement.
His comments came as US-backed forces said they had captured Daesh’s last shred of territory in eastern Syria at Baghouz, ending its territorial rule over a self-proclaimed caliphate straddling Syria and Iraq after years of fighting.
Though the defeat ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some Daesh fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The United States thinks the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq.
Defeating militants in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and restoring security after years of unrest has been a key promise of El-Sisi, the general-turned-president who came to power a year after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013.
Egypt has fought an insurgency waged by a Daesh affiliate in North Sinai since 2013. Hundreds of members of the security forces have been killed.