Pompeo confident of good outcome for Turkey and Kurds

Geneva Stokes
January 14, 2019

Turkey has said its military offensive against the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria hinges on its own decision, regardless of anyone's permission.

But Mr Trump attempted to reassure both Syrian Kurds and observers anxious about a potential ISIS resurgence, saying U.S. troops would remain across the border in Iraq to enforce a 20 mile safe zone.

President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that the United States has begun withdrawing from Syria.

He added, "Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey".

Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist group and there are fears Turkey will attack Kurdish fighters inside Syria when the Americans leave.

"Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds".

A spokesman for the USA -led coalition said the SDF were making "great progress ... but the fight continues". Erdogan called his comments "a serious mistake".

"We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", he added.

The Kurdish YPG has been a USA ally in the fight against the Islamic State group and it controls swaths of northern Syria.

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Pompeo's remarks follow tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over the fate of Washington's allies in the fight against ISIS. He added: "For purposes of operational security, we will not discuss specific troop movements or timelines".

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Since then, USA officials have given mixed messages.

Trump's decision to call back US troops in Syria, who were first deployed in 2015, was followed a day later by the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who wrote a letter to the president saying he had the right to have a secretary of defense "whose views are better aligned with yours".

Special representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey, a former US envoy to Turkey and Iraq, is expected to return to Turkey to continue discussions, Pompeo added.

More than 2,000 USA troops are serving in Syria.

His remarks came in response to Trump's threat to target Turkey's economy if Ankara hits the terror group amid Washington's withdrawal of troops from Syria.

Pompeo said Friday that Washington recognized "the Turkish people's right and Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey's presidential spokesman, replied, also on Twitter, with a warning for Mr Trump. Stressing that Turkey has a significant position with regard to coming up with a solution and taking steps for stability in Syria, Çavuşoğlu said active diplomacy and efforts to prevent humanitarian crises have made the country a major player in world diplomacy. "We will continue to fight against them all".

A senior figure in Saudi Arabia's royal family, Prince Turki al-Faisal, told the BBC it would have a "negative impact" that would benefit Iran, Russia and Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

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