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Jan 13 2019

Pompeo "optimistic" about deal between Turkey and Syrian Kurds

The U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Saturday said an agreement could be reached between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces, in an interview with the Saudi-funded Al Arabiya television.

"There are many details to be worked out but I am optimistic we can achieve a good outcome," Pompeo said. 

Washington understands Turkey's concerns and its efforts to protect its borders and people, according to the top diplomat. 

"That is, to the extent they have terrorist threats on their border, they’re entitled to do what they need to do to protect the Turkish people, and we want to make sure at the same time that the forces that we fought within the region, who aren’t terrorists – those forces who aren’t terrorists – are protected from threats from all the folks in the region." 

He continued, "We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well," citing U.S.-backed Kurdish forces who fought against the Islamic State.

The U.S. President Donald Trump made an abrupt call for an immediate withdrawal of the U.S. troops on Dec.19. Regarding White House's decision, Pompeo said Washington works for creating an "orderly, successful, deliberate departure."

Earlier on Saturday, Pompeo spoke on the phone with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu with both agreeing ''on the importance of continuing U.S.-Turkish consultations as part of the deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria." 

Pompeo and Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton stated on record that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan promised to Trump on the phone that Turkey would protect the Syrian Kurdish fighters who fought against the Islamic State. So far, Erdoğan has neither confirmed nor denied these remarks. 

Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained over U.S. backing for the Syrian Kurdish forces, People's Protection Units (YPG), which has spearheaded the fight against Islamic State. Turkey views YPG as an extension of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil for Kurdish rights.

Pompeo, in response to a question on CBS's Face the Nation on Saturday, said that Washington was ''fully engaged'' in conversation with both Ankara and the mostly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in ensuring that Syrian Kurds are granted their rights while ''terrorists'' from Syria are not attacking Turkey.

''The absence of a couple thousand soldiers on the ground in Syria in no way materially diminishes the capacity of the United States of America and our amazing Armed Forces to deliver American power to accomplish our objectives anywhere in the world,'' Pompeo said, regarding the U.S. withdrawal from the war-torn country.