US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that there is no contradiction between US President Donald Trump and other White House officials regarding the defeat of ISIS in Syria and stressed that Washington is still determined to withdraw troops from the war-torn country.
Speaking during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo on Thursday, Mr Pompeo also said that Egypt will continue to have a “great friend” in the US, which stands ready to provide political and economic support to its Arab ally.
Mr Trump last month said that he will withdraw America’s approximately 2000 troops from Syria because ISIS has been defeated. However, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said this week that the US would not pull-out until ISIS is eradicated.
When asked by reporters about contradictions coming from US officials, Mr Pompeo said that there “were no contradictions.”
“The commitment to fight ISIS is real and we will continue to do that,” he told reporters. “We will do it in Syria differently. Mr Trump's decision to withdraw has been made and we will do that. We will withdraw and continue America's crushing campaign against terrorists.”
He did not specify how the US will continue its campaign against ISIS in Syria after a pull-out and noted that US officials are currently engaging in ongoing “complex discussions” with Turkey on how to achieve a good outcome.
Mr Pompeo also spoke about Washington’s deep commitment to Egypt, which he described as a strategic ally and partner.
We will continue to be a “steadfast partner” of Egypt, he told the press conference.
He said that discussions with Egypt’s foreign minister, included talks on counter-terrorism, the UN-backed Libya peace process, economic development and human rights.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Pompeo met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, on the third leg of his Middle East tour.
He is expected to meet with the head of the country’s General Intelligence Service Abbas Kamel later in the day. He is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the American University of Cairo on the topic of US involvement in the Middle East and Iran’s destabilising role in the region.
The senior US diplomat arrived in Cairo on Wednesday evening after stops in Jordan and Iraq. His longest trip since taking office last year is also set to take him to the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia.
His Middle East tour aims to urge allies to continue to confront the "significant threats" posed by Iran and ISIS despite Mr Trump's shock decision last month to pull all US troops from Syria.
He made an unscheduled stop in Iraq where he met officials in both Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Erbil.
Following a meeting with Kurdish officials in Erbil on Wednesday, he said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has committed to protecting Washington's Kurdish partners in Syria.
His comments come one day after Mr Erdogan lambasted the US for suggesting that Ankara needed to guarantee the safety of Kurdish groups in Syria before Washington would withdraw its forces. Mr Ergodan said new conditions laid out by Washington regarding the withdrawal of US troops from Syria are “unacceptable” and a “grave mistake.”
However, Mr Pompeo said Mr Erdogan had given assurances over the Syrian Kurds and added that the US withdrawal plan was intact.
"It's important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected and [Mr] Erdogan has made commitments, he understands that," Mr Pompeo told reporters.
"He (Mr Erdogan) talked about terrorists being an existential threat, we acknowledged that there is a threat to Turkey from terrorists and we will be very supportive."
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