Jan 12 2019

Pompeo confident Washington and Ankara will agree to protect Kurds in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday he was confident that Turkey and the United States can agree on a way to protect U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria following the U.S. withdrawal from the country, ABC news reported.

Pompeo’s statement follows strong reactions from Ankara to Washington’s announcement of a conditional withdrawal from the region, stipulating the protection of Kurdish milita in the region.

Pompeo, following a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said an agreement was a work in progress, but can be achieved in a way that allows the Turks to defend their country while leaving alone Kurds who do not pose a threat, ABC said.

Pompeo noted he was "optimistic" that Kurds who fought alongside U.S. forces against the Islamic State group in Syria are not threatened by pledges from Ankara to launch military operations against what he terms Kurdish "terrorists."

Turkey last month announced plans for a third military operation into Syria, targeting the U.S.-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara designates a terrorist organisation and has vowed to destroy.

Washington’s support to the YPG has been a contentious issue between two NATO allies, since Ankara sees the armed group as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and, therefore, a threat to Turkey’s national security.

"We recognize the Turkish people's right and President Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists and we also know that those who aren't terrorists, those who were fighting alongside us all this time, deserve to be protected and we are confident that we can achieve an outcome that achieves both of those: protect the Turks from legitimate terror threats and prevent any substantial risks to folks who don't present terror risks to Turkey," Pompeo reporters on Saturday.

"We had this conversation, many details still to be worked out but I am optimistic we can achieve a good outcome," Pompeo added in a statement from Abu Dhabi, where he was on the fourth leg of a nine-nation Mideast trip.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet with U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday, citing Bolton’s “serious mistake” in introducing new conditions for the U.S. military withdrawal of 2000 troops from Syria.