Netanyahu voices hope for Syria ceasefire in Pompeo talks
Jerusalem (AFP) –
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced hope Friday that a US-brokered ceasefire will hold between Turkey and Syria's Kurds as he discussed the turbulent region with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo flew to Israel after he and US Vice President Mike Pence negotiated a deal that will see Turkey suspend its Syria offensive, but which drew criticism over what many viewed as an abandonment of Washington's Kurdish allies.
"We hope things will turn out for the best," Netanyahu told reporters without elaboration when asked about the deal.
Israelis have been watching Trump's decisions on Syria closely, concerned that their country too could be abandoned by its most important ally.
Beyond that, Israel has longstanding concerns over whether arch-enemy Iran will move to fill any vacuum in neighbouring Syria, where Tehran has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in an eight-year-old civil war.
Netanyahu, however, has been careful not to criticise President Donald Trump, a vocal friend as the veteran premier struggles to form a government.
"We've had important discussions about strengthening our alliance, the region and various challenges that we face together, and I want to thank you and the president for your consistent support for Israel," Netanyahu said alongside Pompeo.
Pompeo in turn pledged support for Israel and said that the two discussed Iran.
"We talked about all the efforts that we have made to push back against the threat not only to Israel but to the region and the world from the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said as Netanyahu nodded.
Netanyahu, welcoming Pompeo to his official residence, also escorted the top US diplomat into a small hut which Jews traditionally set up for the Sukkot holiday.
Trump triggered the week-long Turkish offensive against the Kurds by withdrawing US troops from northeastern Syria.
Netanyahu last week issued a statement saying Israel strongly condemned Turkey's "invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria".
After the temporary ceasefire was announced, Trump heaped praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling him "a hell of a leader."
Netanyahu has tense relations with Erdogan, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause despite Turkey's recognition of Israel.
Netanyahu's long tenure in power has been under threat after a deadlocked September 17 general election.
The prime minister has so far been unable to form a unity government with his main opponent, ex-military chief Benny Gantz, and could also be indicted for corruption in the weeks ahead.
© 2019 AFP