US Secretary of State kicks off Middle East tour in Egypt

KUWAIT CITY  US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al Khaled al-Sabah EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani pose with othe

US Secretary of State kicks off Middle East tour in Egypt

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Cairo on Sunday, beginning a swing through the Middle East as it grapples with political turmoil and military clashes that threaten to undermine his ability to ease rising tensions.

Tillerson is in Cairo to begin a five-country Middle East trip.

After his talks with el-Sissi, Tillerson is travelling on to Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where he will meet local officails as well as Saudi, Emirati, Iraqi and Syrian delegations.

Given the news, Tillerson has "not ruled out" adding a stop in Israel in order to help diffuse the situation, a State Department official said.

The top USA diplomat's visit to Ankara comes amid escalated tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies over a series of disagreements, including human rights cases and the Syria crisis.

In the year after a failed coup in July 2016, Turkey arrested more than 40,000 people and fired 125,000, including many from the police, army and judiciary. Yet they have diverging interests in the Syrian civil war, with Washington focussed on defeating Islamic State and Ankara keen to prevent Syria's Kurds from gaining autonomy and fuelling Kurdish insurgents on Turkish soil.

Washington relies on the YPG to fight against Daesh on the ground, while Ankara argues that one terrorist group can not be used to fight another.

But Turkey's Western allies have worked closely with YPG fighters in the battle against Islamic State (IS) extremists and do not consider it to be a terror group.

"We are urging them to show restraint in their operations in Afrin and to show restraint further along the line across the (border) in northern Syria", a USA official told reporters in a conference call.

He will also discuss the status of forces in northern Syria with Turkish leadership; continue discussions with senior Egyptian officials on the Middle East peace process; attend a conference on the reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait City; and make a rare stop in Beirut - the first such visit there by a USA secretary of state since 2014.

In Beirut, he will meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri to emphasize USA support for the Lebanese people and the Lebanese armed forces.

Tillerson will lead a USA delegation in Kuwait for a ministerial meeting of the US -led anti-Daesh coalition, and he will participate in a three-day Iran reconstruction conference.

The three-day Iraq Reconstruction Conference will showcase private sector investment opportunities and global support for Iraq.

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