Abu Dhabi (AFP) – Washington’s prime diplomat mentioned Saturday he was “optimistic” a means might be discovered to guard Syrian Kurds whereas permitting Turks to “defend their nation from terrorists” following a US pullout from Syria.
“We’re assured we are able to obtain an consequence that achieves each of these,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo advised journalists in Abu Dhabi.
The Gulf emirate is his newest cease in a regional tour geared toward reassuring allies after a shock December announcement by President Donald Trump that US troops could be withdrawn from Syria.
Pompeo’s remarks comply with tensions between the US and Turkey over the destiny of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies within the combat in opposition to Islamic State group jihadists.
Turkey had reacted angrily to strategies that Trump’s plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the security of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, seen by the Turkish authorities as terrorists.
US-led operations in opposition to IS in Syria have been spearheaded on the bottom by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.
Ankara sees the spine of that alliance, the Kurdish Folks’s Safety Items (YPG), as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Employee’s Get together (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency in opposition to the Turkish state.
Pompeo mentioned that Washington recognised “the Turkish individuals’s proper and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s proper to defend their nation from terrorists”.
However, he added, “we additionally know that these preventing alongside of us for all this time need to be protected as effectively”.
Pompeo mentioned he had spoken to Turkey’s International Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
“Many particulars (are) nonetheless to be labored out however I am optimistic that we are able to obtain a very good consequence,” he mentioned.
– Threatened assault –
A number of operations together with American-backed assaults have ousted IS jihadists from a lot of the swathes of Syria and Iraq they captured in 2014.
However Trump’s announcement raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish assault in opposition to the Kurds.
On Thursday, Cavusoglu repeated that risk, telling NTV tv: “if the (pullout) is delay with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which don’t replicate the truth, we’ll implement this determination.”
That got here after a tense assembly between Turkish officers and Trump’s nationwide safety adviser John Bolton in Ankara, geared toward coordinating the pullout course of after Bolton set situations that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.
The phrases included the overall defeat of IS — nonetheless lively in some elements of Syria — and making certain safety for Kurdish fighters.
The US-led coalition launched operations in opposition to IS in September 2014, forming the SDF a 12 months later with some 25,000 Kurdish fighters and 5,000 Arabs — all Syrian.
Backed by US arms and air assist, the YPG-dominated group has overrun the de facto Syrian capital of IS, Raqa, and a big a part of Deir Ezzor province.
However that stirred Turkish fears of a breakaway Kurdish state on its border.
In addition to preventing IS, the YPG has additionally battled pro-Ankara forces in northwestern Syria, pulling SDF forces away from the battle in opposition to jihadists within the east of the nation.
Trump’s announcement final month prompted the YPG to name on Syrian authorities troops to deploy alongside their very own forces within the north to assist counter a possible Turkish offensive.
A spokesman for the US navy mentioned Friday it had begun “the method of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria”.
However US defence officers shortly sought to make clear that whereas gear was being pulled out, “we aren’t withdrawing troops at this stage”.
In an interview with US broadcaster CBS on Saturday, Pompeo mentioned “the president’s steerage is extremely clear” on the withdrawal.
Syria’s devastating battle started in 2011 with anti-government demonstrations that had been brutally crushed, sparking a posh warfare involving a number of overseas militias and jihadist teams, in addition to regional and worldwide powers together with the US.
The withdrawal announcement had additionally sparked considerations amongst Arab states and Israel that it might open the way in which to rising Iranian affect.
Pompeo has pledged to “expel each final Iranian boot” from Syria, and on Saturday sought to downplay the affect of the US pullout on this objective.
“The truth that a few hundreds of uniformed personnel in Syria will likely be withdrawing is a tactical change,” he mentioned.
“It does not materially alter our capability to proceed to carry out the navy actions that we have to carry out.”
The US is seeking to create an anti-Iran entrance — the Center East Strategic Alliance — bringing collectively Gulf international locations in addition to Egypt and Jordan.
Washington is ready to convene a world summit in Poland subsequent month specializing in stability within the Center East, together with Iran’s affect.