US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he is optimistic an agreement can be reached with Turkey to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria after the US pullout. He was speaking in the United Arab Emirates following a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, the BBC reported on Sunday. US forces in northern Syria have fought alongside a Kurdish militia against Islamic State (IS) militants.
Turkey, however, regards the People's Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group and has vowed to crush it. Pompeo is touring the Middle East to try to reassure allies following President Donald Trump's abrupt announcement in December that US forces would withdraw from Syria. Talking to reporters here, Pompeo said the US recognised "the Turkish people's right and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists". "We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well," he said.
"Many details (are) still to be worked out but I'm optimistic that we can achieve a good outcome," he added. Last week, President Erdogan had rejected calls by US National Security Adviser John Bolton for the Kurdish fighters to be protected. Erdogan had said that the US did not know who the various Kurdish groups were, adding: "If the US evaluates them as 'Kurdish brothers' then they are in a serious delusion." Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades. The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK.
(With inputs from agencies.)