January 10, 2019 / 12:02 AM
US is committed to protecting Syrian Kurds: Pompeo

Speaking in Erbil, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Wednesday (January 9) that the US is committed to protecting Syrian Kurds.

During a press gaggle, Pompeo was asked how the US planned to address statements made by its NATO-ally Turkey threatening military action against US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, NRT reported.

 “We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces, makes sure that the Americans, as we withdraw, are safe, and we will complete the mission of taking down the last elements of the [Islamic State] caliphate before we depart.”

Pressed as to whether that mission is protecting the Kurds, Pompeo replied that “it’s important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected.”

 “And Erdogan has made commitments; he understands that – I think he uses the language – he talks about he has no beef with the Kurds. We want to make sure that that’s the case,” he added.

 “I’m confident that as Ambassador Jeffrey and others travel through the region in the days ahead, we’ll make real progress on that.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Turkey will not refrain from military action to protect its borders from what he describes as threats posed by Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The previous day, National Security Adviser John Bolton had been turned away by President Tayyip Erdogan, who refused to meet the US delegation after Bolton had demanded assurances that Ankara would protect the YPG before American troops pull out from the region.

Erdogan, who has long argued that the YPG is no different from the ISIS militants, said the condition was unacceptable.

 “If they are terrorists, we will do what is necessary no matter where they come from,” he told members of his AK Party in parliament.

 “Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake. It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point.”

Asked about those specific comments, Pompeo dodged the question.

 “He’s talked about terrorists being an existential threat. We acknowledge that there is a threat to Turkey from terrorists and we will be very supportive,” he said.

 “Any place we find extremists and terrorists, we’re prepared to support whatever country is ready to go after them. That includes Turkey and others.”

On Wednesday, Pompeo made unannounced visits to Baghdad and Erbil to meet with Iraqi and Kurdish officials as part of an extensive tour of the Middle East.

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