Jordanian FM to Pompeo: Israel must eventually withdraw from Golan
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Jordanian FM to Pompeo: Israel must eventually withdraw from Golan

In Amman, US secretary of state says planned troop pullout from Syria will not change Washington’s commitment to anti-Iran campaign

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on January 8, 2019. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on January 8, 2019. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP)

As Israel lobbies the US to recognize its sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Jordan’s foreign minister on Tuesday presented his visiting American counterpart with an opposing view of the matter.

“International law regarding the Golan Heights is clear,” Ayman Safadi told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Amman. “Israel must withdraw from the region as part of a deal that will allow the rights of all sides to be maintained,” he said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged visiting US National Security Adviser John Bolton to recognize Israel’s claim to the Golan.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed it in 1981, in a move not recognized by the international community. In light of the civil war in Syria, Israel has in recent years stepped up its calls on friendly governments to recognize that it will never return the strategically important territory to the Assad regime. However, no allied country has done so.

During his meeting with Pompeo, Safadi said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the region’s central problem. He said that while Jordan and the US “don’t always agree on every issue, we will continue to work together to solve the region’s problems.”

Pompeo, meanwhile, stressed that the central threats to the region were posed by the Islamic State and Iran.

Also on Tuesday, Pompeo met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the royal palace in the capital of Amman.

The US secretary of state is meeting with US allies in the region, including Jordan, Egypt and several Gulf nations, to coordinate an anti-Iran campaign.

Pompeo’s trip comes amid confusion over conflicting statements by US President Donald Trump and senior US officials about a planned US troop withdrawal from Syria. Trump made the surprise announcement about a withdrawal last month, saying some 2,000 troops fighting alongside Syrian Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria against Islamic State would be pulled out soon. He did not give details, such as a timetable, leaving bewildered US partners in the region jockeying for influence over terms of a withdrawal.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) holds a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on January 8, 2019 (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / POOL / AFP)

Pompeo contended Tuesday that the planned withdrawal from Syria would not complicate the administration’s anti-Iran campaign. He said US allies in the region, including Jordan, agree on what they view as the “enormous risk” Iran poses for the region.

“The president’s decision to withdraw our folks from Syria in no way impacts our capacity to deliver on that,” he said alongside Safadi. “You will see in the coming days and weeks that we are doubling not only our diplomatic but our commercial efforts to put real pressure on Iran to achieve what it is we set out for them back in May.”

The Trump administration in November restored US sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Western powers. The sanctions cover Iran’s shipping, financial and energy sectors. They are the second batch the administration has re-imposed since Trump withdrew from the accord in May.

Pompeo’s visit began as Bolton was set to depart Turkey without meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — an apparent snub over disagreements about the Kurdish fighters in Syria.

US officials had said the two were expected to have consultations on Tuesday about the fate of Kurds allied with the US in Syria as part of discussions about Trump’s troop draw-down.

National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said US officials were told Erdogan cited local election season and a speech to parliament for not meeting with Bolton.

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