US Moves in Syria Irk Russia, Turkey

US Moves in Syria Irk Russia, Turkey

The top USA diplomat said he was "optimistic" that Kurds who fought alongside US forces against the Islamic State group in Syria are not threatened by pledges from Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to launch military operations against what he terms Kurdish "terrorists".

Pompeo said on Friday that Washington recognised "the Turkish people's right and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

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

While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the US -led coalition against Islamic State began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said. The Kurdish groups that control a vast swathe of northern Syria have now turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north.

Pompeo's remarks follow tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over the fate of Washington's allies in the fight against ISIS.

Earlier this week Pompeo told reporters in Iraq that U.S. President Donald Trump is determined to withdraw American soldiers from Syria and his decision is very clear, addressing concerns as to whether Turkey's refusal to fulfill any preconditions to the withdrawal would put the move at risk.

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The comments from Hulusi Akar, on an unannounced visit to inspect troops stationed near the Syrian border directly opposite territory held by the USA -backed Kurdish YPG, appeared to be aimed at both Washington and its Kurdish allies.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis had resigned immediately after Trump's claim in December that the Islamic State group had been defeated.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi as part of a regional tour, Pompeo said the withdrawal of US troops from Syria was a "tactical change" but the mission to destroy Islamic State and counter Iran's influence remained the same.

"It's an ambitious objective, but it is ours, and it is our mission", he added.

In a speech in Cairo on Thursday, Pompeo vowed that the United States would "expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria, where Tehran is supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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