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Pompeo visits Netanyahu amid Israeli concern over Trump's abandonment of Kurdish allies

Israel fears being abandoned by the US after Washington abandoned its Kurdish allies. [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 October, 2019

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Jerusalem after negotiating a deal with Turkey to halt its military advance in northern Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday amid alarm in Israel over  Washington’s change of policy on Syria.

Pompeo arrived in Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem after he and US Vice President Mike Pence negotiated a deal with Turkey to halt its military advance in northern Syria.

The US’ decision to withdraw its troops from the region was widely seen as a betrayal of their Kurdish allies who were on the front lines of the war against the Islamic State group.

Also read: What will be the future of the Syrian Democratic Forces?

Israel fears that its longstanding enemy Iran could move to fill the power vacuum in Syria, where Tehran and its proxies have been propping up President Bashar al-Assad’s government during the devastating 8-year-long civil war.

Trump called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “hell of a leader” after the ceasefire deal was finalised, echoing the extraordinary and absurd tone he used in a letter to Erdogan a few days earlier.

Netanyahu has been careful not to seen as criticising Trump in the midst of his tenuous position as Israel’s Prime Minister, but has condemned Turkey’s offensive by calling it an “invasion of Kurdish areas in Syria”, warning against “ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.”

Turkey's presence in Syria is "short term", pledges US representative. 

Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops from northeastern Syria triggered the Turkish military offensive. Erdogan has longed for a full-scale military confrontation with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, a group Turkey says is supporting the PKK (Kurdistan Worker's Party), an organisation that has waged a guerilla war inside Turkey for the last four decades.

Trump has shifted American foreign policy overwhelmingly in Israel’s favour since taking office, most notably by recognising the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel capital and moving the US’ embassy there. His recent erratic moves in Syria, however, have given Tel Aviv cause for concern.

Pompeo’s visit comes as Netanyahu’s long tenure in power is under threat as his party was unable to form a government following the deadlocked September elections. He is further facing charges of corruption, an allegation that has plagued him during the campaign and for which he could be indicted in the coming weeks.

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