Pompeo: US relationship with Saudi Arabia essential for Middle East stability

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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed greets Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the UAE capital. (AFP)
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Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (C-L) receives visiting US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C-R) prior to their meeting at Al-Shati Palace in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on January 12, 2019. (AFP)
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Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan speaks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting at Al-Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 12, 2019. (Reuters)
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Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan speaks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting at Al-Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates January 12, 2019. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, walks with Vice Adm. James Malloy, commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, after a tour of the US Naval Forces Central Command center in Manama, Bahrain, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (AP)
Updated 13 January 2019
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Pompeo: US relationship with Saudi Arabia essential for Middle East stability

  •  US secretary of state says America wants an Arab coalition capable of facing the different challenges in the region
  • Pompeo holds talks in Abu Dhabi with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

DUBAI/LONDON:  Washington’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is “fundamental to the stability and security of the region,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday.

“The relationship must go forward. We have to have good relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this administration intends to do so,” Pompeo said in an interview with Al Arabiya.

The secretary of state was speaking in Abu Dhabi on the latest leg of a nine-nation Middle East tour aimed at reassuring allies of US commitment to the region after President Donald Trump’s announcement that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria. He is expected in Saudi Arabia this week

The pullout caused particular concern among Kurdish YPG forces in northern Syria, who fought with the US-led anti-Daesh coalition but fear the withdrawal of US protection will lead to an attack by Turkey, which views the YPG as terrorists.

Pompeo said he had discussed the issue with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and was confident that it could be resolved.

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

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

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

He suggested that talks between the Assad regime and the Syrian Kurds could be part of a broader political solution in Syria. “We hope we can turn the corner here,” he said.

Pompeo said the withdrawal of US troops from Syria would make no difference to America’s regional strategic objectives; the mission to destroy Daesh and counter Iran’s influence remained the same.

“The fact that a couple of thousand uniformed personnel in Syria will be withdrawing is a tactical change,” he said.

“It doesn’t materially alter our capacity to continue to perform the military actions that we need to perform.”

In a speech in Cairo on Thursday, Pompeo vowed that the US would “expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria. “It’s an ambitious objective, but it is ours, and it is our mission,” he said.

The US wants to create a Middle East Strategic Alliance against Iran, comprising the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan.

Washington will convene an international summit in Poland next month focusing on peace and stability in the Middle East, including Iran’s influence.


Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

Updated 37 min 3 sec ago
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Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

  • Netanyahu said the incident will evoke a strong Israeli reaction
  • Palestinian rockets rarely reach an area at that distance from Gaza

MISHMERET/JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is to cut short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.

“In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.

He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding seven Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel’s army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv — also rare — on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire toward Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army’s preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.

The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.

Monday’s rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.