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allies of US commitment to the region after President Donald Trump’s announcement that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria.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


Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

Updated 08 December 2019

Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

  • Abdallah Chatila spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler
  • He said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market

JERUSALEM: wealthy Lebanese-Swiss businessman said Sunday he had bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi artifacts to give them to Jewish groups and prevent them falling into the hands of a resurgent far-right.
Abdallah Chatila said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market because of the rising anti-Semitism, populism and racism he was witnessing in Europe.
He spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler, including the collapsible top hat, in a November 20 sale at a Munich auction house, originally planning to burn them all.
But he then decided to give them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group, which has resolved to hand them to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.
Chatila told a Jerusalem press conference it had been a “very easy” decision to purchase the items when he saw the “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.”
“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” he added.
“What happened in the last five years in Europe showed us that anti-Semitism, that populism, that racism is going stronger and stronger, and we are here to fight it and show people we’re not scared.
“Today — with the fake news, with the media, with the power that people could have with the Internet, with social media — somebody else could use that small window” of time to manipulate the public, he said.
He said he had worried the Nazi-era artifacts could be used by neo-Nazi groups or those seeking to stoke anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.
“That’s why I felt I had to do it,” he said of his purchase.
The items, still in Munich, are to be eventually delivered to Yad Vashem, where they will be part of a collection of Nazi artifacts crucial to countering Holocaust denial, but not be put on regular display, said Avner Shalev, the institute’s director.
Chatila also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visited Yad Vashem.
Chatila was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers and moved to Switzerland at the age of two.
Now among Switzerland’s richest 300 people, he supports charities and causes, including many relating to Lebanon and Syrian refugees.
The auction was brought to Chatila’s attention by the European Jewish Association, which has sought to sway public opinion against the trade in Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Mehachem Margolin, head of the association, said Chatila’s surprise act had raised attention to such auctions.
He said it was a powerful statement against racism and xenophobia, especially coming from a non-Jew of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and Lebanese people are banned from communication with Israelis.
“There is no question that a message that comes from you is 10 times, or 100 times stronger than a message that comes from us,” Margolin told Chatila.
The message was not only about solidarity among people, but also “how one person can make such a huge change,” Margolin said.
“There’s a place for optimism.”