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Pompeo ‘optimistic’ Kurds, Turkey both can be protected
January 13, 2019
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DAMASCUS: Washington’s top diplomat said on Saturday he was “optimistic” a way could be found to protect Syrian Kurds while allowing Turks to “defend their country from terrorists” following a US pullout from Syria.

“We are confident we can achieve an outcome that achieves both of those,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told journalists.

The Gulf emirate is his latest stop in a regional tour aimed at reassuring allies after a shock December announcement by President Donald Trump that US troops would be withdrawn from Syria.

Pompeo’s remarks follow tensions between the US and Turkey over the fate of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies in the fight against Daesh group militants.

Turkey had reacted angrily to suggestions that Trump’s plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, seen by the Turkish government as terrorists.

US-led operations against DAesh in Syria have been spearheaded on the ground by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces.

Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Pompeo said that Washington recognised “the Turkish people’s right and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s right to defend their country from terrorists.”

But, he added, “we also know that those fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well.”

Pompeo said he had spoken to Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“Many details (are) still to be worked out but I’m optimistic that we can achieve a good outcome,” he said.

Multiple operations including American-backed assaults have ousted Daesh militants from most of the swathes of Syria and Iraq they captured in 2014.

But Trump’s announcement raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish assault against the Kurds.

On Thursday, Cavusoglu repeated that threat, telling NTV television: “if the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision.”

Agence France-Presse

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