JERUSALEM: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday, hours after Turkey agreed with the United States to pause its offensive on Kurdish forces in Syria.
Turkey launched its assault against the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria last week after US President Donald Trump pulled a US contingent out of the way, creating a new front in Syria’s eight-year war and prompting 200,000 civilians to take flight.
Israel sees Syria’s Kurds, once US allies, as a counterweight to Islamist insurgents in northern Syria.
It worries militants aligned with its arch-foe Iran could fill the vacuum left by a disengaged United States.
The Kurds responded to the US withdrawal by inviting Syrian government forces, backed by Moscow and Tehran, into towns and cities in areas they control.
Trump’s recent diplomatic outreach to Tehran, in parallel to his firing of hawkish national security adviser John Bolton, also gave Israelis pause.
Thursday’s truce, brokered in Ankara by a US team including Pompeo and US vice president Mike Pence, gives Kurdish forces five days to withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara had sought to capture.
Pompeo’s visit on the heels of the ceasefire was widely seen in Israel as an attempt to assuage Israeli concerns that a US force drawdown could expose it to attacks by Iran or its proxies.
Later on Friday, Pompeo will fly to Brussels for a meeting with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

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