Friday, 22 June, 2018

Tillerson heads to Middle East amid new Syria carnage

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks during a press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in Bogota S Secretary Tillerson to travel to Middle East
Kayla Schwartz | 12 February, 2018, 12:41

U.S. officials agreed on Friday that most of Tillerson's discussions will likely be hard, saying those with NATO-ally Turkey will probably be especially prickly, given Turkish military action against US-backed Kurdish rebels in northern Syria and escalating anti-American rhetoric in Ankara.

Tillerson's trip to Cairo comes after Vice-President Mike Pence visited in January to discuss security in the region and the future of U.S. aid to Egypt.

In Jordan, Tillerson will be doing damage control, after President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his administration's subsequent decision to withhold aid money from the United Nations agency assisting Palestinian refugees.

The United States and Turkey are allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). "That's going to be a hard conversation".

Late last month, Ankara began a cross-border offensive in northwestern Syria against what it calls a "terrorist" Kurdish militia supported and armed by Washington whose troops are back local militias against the Islamic State group (IS).

"Look, it's hard. The rhetoric is hot, the Turks are angry and this is a hard time to do business, but it's our belief that there are still some very fundamental underlying shared interests", the senior official said Friday.

Mirai Nagasu first U.S. skater to land triple axel at Olympics
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U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is set to visit Jordan as part of a tour, during which he will visit several countries in the region, State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, said. The US officials said Tillerson will repeat warnings for Turkey to show restraint in military operations in Kurdish areas of Syria. "The Turks are angry, and this is a hard time to do business but it's our belief that there are still some very fundamental underlying shared interests".

"We are going to terminate that threat", Kilic told reporters in Washington.

Given the news, Tillerson has "not ruled out" adding a stop in Israel in order to help diffuse the situation, a State Department official said. "But they're also partners with whom we're facing some of the toughest issues that we have to face in the region".

President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi is meeting with Tillerson on Monday afternoon in Cairo to discuss bilateral partnership, how to further strengthen it, and coordinate on key regional issues including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, following the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital city; the decision which Egypt strongly rejected.

"And we have noted our concerns about the reports that Egypt's prosecutor general has launched an investigation into opposition figures ahead of the March 26th through 28th elections".

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