Pompeo calls for Gulf unity to fight Iranian influence

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir. (Reuters)
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Doha. (AFP)
Updated 14 January 2019

Pompeo calls for Gulf unity to fight Iranian influence

  • Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on Sunday where he was welcomed by Adel Al-Jubeir and Prince Khalid bin Salman
  • The US earlier agreed with Qatar on a widening presence in the Udaid military base

RIYADH: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Sunday for greater unity among the Arabian Gulf states to combat Iran’s malign influence in the region.

Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on Sunday evening on the latest leg of his nine-nation tour of the Middle East.

He was greeted by Adel Al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, and US Charge D'Affaires Christopher Henzel. Later, he was expected to have talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pompeo also said the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors had gone on for too long and was threatening regional unity needed to counter Iran.

"We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited. When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful," he said at a press conference in Qatar earlier in the day.

Pompeo visited Doha on Sunday and signed several agreements with Qatari officials.

 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over Doha’s support for terrorism and its closeness to Tehran.

Pompeo said Gulf unity was essential for a planned Middle East Strategic Alliance that would also include Jordan and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have repeatedly said the dispute was not a top priority and assured Washington it would not affect defense cooperation.

“When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful,” he said.

“They never permit you to have as robust a response to common adversaries or common challenges as you might. We’re all more powerful when we’re working together.”

Pompeo said he had discussed the dispute with officials in Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. “It’s not at all clear that the rift is any closer to being resolved today than it was yesterday and I regret that,” he said. “We’re hoping that the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council will increase in the days and weeks and months ahead.”

Pompeo said that while in Riyadh he would also be discussing the case of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist killed at the country’s consulate in Istanbul last October.  

Eleven people have appeared in court in Saudi Arabia charged in connection with Khashoggi’s death, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against five of them for his murder.

“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring the accountability is full and complete,” Pompeo said. “We’ll make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable, certainly by the Saudis but by the United States as well.”

“President Trump made clear immediately in the aftermath of this murder that the relationship is broader and deeper and bigger than that,” Pompeo said. 

“We absolutely have expectations when things go wrong, when heinous acts have occurred, people need to be held accountable for this, but this relationship predated that and the relationship must go forward. We have to have a good relation with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this administration intends to do so”.

The US Secretary of State will also be traveling to Warsaw in February to attend a joint US-Poland hosted Iran-focused world summit.

(With agencies)


Anti-Assad fighters withdraw from key area of northwest Syria

Updated 20 August 2019

Anti-Assad fighters withdraw from key area of northwest Syria

  • The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces
  • After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar

BEIRUT: Jihadists and allied rebels withdrew from a key area of northwestern Syria Tuesday as President Bashar Assad’s forces pressed an offensive against the jihadist-run Idlib region, a war monitor said.
The fighters pulled back from the town of Khan Sheikun and the countryside to its south overnight and in the early hours of Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The withdrawal means an important Turkish observation point in the nearby town of Morek is effectively surrounded by government forces, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.
On Monday, a Turkish military convoy crossed the border into the Idlib region, sparking condemnation from Damascus as Ankara alleged air strikes had targeted its troops.
The convoy halted just north of Khan Sheikhun on Monday afternoon and remained there on Tuesday, after government forces took control of a section of the highway into the town.
Pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said Monday morning’s strike targeted a rebel vehicle scouting the road in front of the Turkish convoy.
“The Syrian army in its own way sent a clear message to the Turkish regime by forcing convoys sent by Ankara to help the terrorists in Khan Sheikhun to come to a halt,” it said.
It was a “clear warning against any Turkish attempt to resuscitate the terrorists,” the paper said, adding that the strike had “Russian support.”
After eight years of civil war, the Idlib region on the border with Turkey is the last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Since January, it has been administered by the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance, which is led by jihadists from Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The region of some three million people was supposed to be protected by a Turkish-Russian buffer zone deal signed last year.
But government and Russian forces have subjected it to heavy bombardment since late April, killing more than 860 civilians, according to an Observatory toll.
The United Nations says the shelling and air strikes have also hit dozens of health facilities and caused more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people since the rebels first took arms following the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
Rival interventions by outside powers have turned it into a complex conflict with multiple battle fronts that has driven millions of civilians from their homes.