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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Trump ‘fully prepared’ to take military action in Syria, says Pompeo

US president under heavy criticism for decision to pull out American forces from northern Syria
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (right) on Monday said US President Donald Trump (left) would take military action against Turkey if required over its incursion into northern Syria. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

US President Donald Trump is prepared to use military force if needed in Syria as Turkey attacks Kurds in the country's north, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.

“We prefer peace to war but in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action,” Mr Pompeo told CNBC.

Mr Trump is under heavy criticism for his decision to pull out American forces from northern Syria, abandoning their Kurdish allies in the fight against ISIS.

After the US withdrawal, Turkey launched an offensive that has killed more than 120 civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported from Britain.

Mr Pompeo would not say what would prompt Mr Trump to go to war.

“You suggested the economic powers that we’ve used," he said. "We’ll certainly use them. We’ll use our diplomatic powers as well. Those are our preference."

Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Unionist Party, or PYD, on Monday accused Ankara of supporting extremist groups.

“Turkey will not protect US and European national security," the party tweeted.

"Turkey threatens the security of all civilised states by supporting extremist groups that have now brought them to exterminate Kurds, Arabs, Christians and all components of north-eastern Syria.”

Kurds in Erbil hurled stones at a US military convoy leaving north Syria on Monday.

But Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdish Regional Government, issued a statement of respect for the historical alliance with the US on Monday.

Mr Barzani said the role of the American army “should not be associated with undesired political decisions”.

He said the US established Iraqi no-fly zones in 1991, toppled the Baath regime in 2003 and helped the Kurds to defeat ISIS in the region.

“They have fought and bled alongside the peshmerga forces in defending the Kurdistan Region," Mr Barzani said.

“The Kurdistan Region reiterates its appreciation to the US-led coalition forces and our continued partnership in the fight against ISIS."

The US sanctioned Turkey last week for its incursion into northern Syria, which has displaced about 300,000 people.

But Turkey says 765 terrorists and no civilians have been killed in its offensive.

Many ISIS members who were captured by US and Kurdish forces have escaped from prisons since the invasion began.

On Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence announced that Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire to allow for the withdrawal of Kurdish troops.

Updated: October 22, 2019 10:58 AM