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allies of US commitment to the region after President Donald Trump’s announcement that American troops would be withdrawn from Syria.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


Sea-Eye ship with 125 rescued migrants docks in Sardinia

Updated 25 September 2020

Sea-Eye ship with 125 rescued migrants docks in Sardinia

  • NGO Sea-Eye says the vessel Alan Kurdi docked at the port of Arbatax on the east of the island

ROME: A ship with 125 rescued migrants aboard reached the Italian island of Sardinia on Thursday, the aid organization Sea-Eye said, adding that the fate of its survivors remains unclear.

The Alan Kurdi docked at the port of Arbatax on the east of the island, having been “instructed by the port authorities to drop anchor and wait for further instructions,” said Sea-Eye, which charters the boat.

However, the NGO said it was unclear whether Arbatax would be a “safe port,” in which the rescued survivors would be able to disembark.

On Wednesday night, Italian authorities had made contact to discuss the “further coordination” and to provide weather protection for the ship, five days since Sea-Eye asked for assistance, it said on Twitter.

Italy’s Interior Ministry said earlier in the day that it had “authorized the request” to dock and “activated the procedure to redistribute” the 125 rescued migrants across Europe.

“Eighty percent of the rescued migrants will be transferred to other European countries,” it added.

The ship — named Alan Kurdi after the Syrian boy who made global headlines when his drowned body washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015 — rescued 133 people, including 62 children, from three different boats off the Libyan coast.

Eight people, including a five-month-old baby, were evacuated by the Italian coast guard. More than 50 minors are still on board, including young children, the NGO said.

The ship was initially heading to Marseille in the south of France before French authorities successfully asked Italy to allow it to dock in the Mediterranean, Sea-Eye’s chief Gorden Isler said in a tweet.

“We hope that the 125 rescued will be allowed to disembark in Sardinia so they can be adequately cared for there,” Isler added.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the Sea-Eye ship should “be received in the nearest safe port,” with France implicitly declining any possibility of allowing the ship to dock in Marseille.

The principle of the landing of survivors in the nearest “safe port,” enshrined in international maritime law, generally means Italy or Malta are expected to take in rescued survivors from Mediterranean crossings.

More than 600 migrants have perished this year while attempting the Mediterranean crossing, the deadliest route for those hoping for a better life in Europe.

Almost 50,000 have made the journey so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.