U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
January 9, 2019
U.S. Consulate General Erbil
SERETARY POMPEO: (In progress) with the whole team, the head of the council of representatives, and then we came here to Erbil and had conversations with the Kurdish leadership as well. And again, real progress has been made since the election in Iraq, which I think will put this country and this region in a far better place. So it was a great set of conversations, a great set of partners, and a common understanding that the battle against Daesh, to counter Daesh, and the fight to counter Iran is real and important and something each of us needs to be active participants in.
With that, I’m happy to take a question.
QUESTION: President Erdogan seems much more – much less enthusiastic about the withdrawal from Syria now that you set as a condition to the protection of the Kurds. Does that put at risk the whole withdrawal, or how are you going to handle this?
SERETARY POMPEO: No, the President – the President’s decision to withdraw is very clear.
QUESTION: How are you going to handle the relation with the Kurds and with Turkey?
SERETARY POMPEO: We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces, makes sure that the Americans, as we withdraw, are safe, and we will complete the mission of taking down the last elements of the caliphate before we depart.
QUESTION: Is part of that mission protecting the Kurds, though, as you said in an interview last week?
SERETARY POMPEO: What I said – what I said last week is these have been folks that have fought with us and it’s important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected. And Erdogan has made commitments; he understands that – I think he uses the language – he talks about he has no beef with the Kurds. We want to make sure that that’s the case, and I’m confident that as Ambassador Jeffrey and others travel through the region in the days ahead, we’ll make real progress on that.
MR PALLADINO: Thanks, guys.
QUESTION: He’s also called those groups like the YPG an existential threat to Turkey.
SERETARY POMPEO: He’s talked about terrorists being an existential threat. We acknowledge that there is a threat to Turkey from terrorists and we will be very supportive. Any place we find extremists and terrorists, we’re prepared to support whatever country is ready to go after them. That includes Turkey and others.
MR PALLADINO: Thanks, guys. That’s it. Here we go.
SERETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one last question on —