US Secretary of State in Egypt at start of Mideast tour

US Secretary of State in Egypt at start of Mideast tour

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on February 13 that Turkey's military operation to remove People's Protection Units (YPG) from the Syrian district of Afrin is hampering the U.S. -led coalition's efforts to maintain the focus on the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.

The United States pledges 200 million U.S. dollars in support of the anti-IS coalition efforts in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Tuesday.

It stepped up support for Kurdish-led forces in Syria before its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey began a military operation against them last month, and has sided firmly with Israel in recognising Jerusalem as its capital, angering Palestinians and drawing rebukes from Arab leaders. But the officials said diplomacy is necessary to cement anti-IS gains and restore regional stability as the administration presses other nations and private companies to help with post-war reconstruction.

In Rome, at a meeting of defense ministers Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis flatly rejected one claim by Turkish officials that the U.S.is leaving pockets of Islamic State militants in Syria to prolong the war.

Washington's top diplomat also voiced concern over recent escalations between Iran and Israel in Syria, urging Tehran to withdraw all its forces from the latter.

Turkey has been attacking the Kurds in Syria for the past three weeks, despite US calls for restraint.

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"The issue of withholding more assistance if things don't go right was not raised", a senior State Department official said later, insisting however that "there are some areas of progress we want to see".

According to Coats, ISIS core has started - and probably will maintain - a robust insurgency in Iraq and Syria as part of a long-term strategy to ultimately enable the reemergence of its so-called caliphate.

The Trump administration has said it would back a two-state solution if the parties agreed to it.

During the conference, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that if communities in Iraq and Syria can not return to normal life, "we risk the return of conditions that allowed ISIS to take and control vast territory". Israel's security is a US priority, and the danger is that USA forces could get dragged into direct conflict with Iranian militias.

Israel, in turn, has grown increasingly alarmed about the presence of Iranian forces and allied militias, including the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, in southern Syria near the Israeli-controlled portion of the Golan Heights.

In Kuwait on Tuesday, Tillerson will attend a conference focusing on how to reconstruct a devastated Iraq in the years and decades ahead, relying largely on private-sector companies and global financial organizations.

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