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

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allies of US commitment to the region after President Donald Trump’s announcement that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria.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.


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”