In Israel, Bolton Says U.S. Pullout From Syria Conditioned on Turkey Assuring Safety of Kurdish Fighters

Senior Trump aide to meet with Netanyahu to discuss efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and Ambassador David M. Friedman wear virtual reality goggles during a visit to the Western Wall tunnel complex, January 6, 2019
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and Ambassador David M. Friedman wear virtual reality goggles during a visit to the Western Wall tunnel complex, January 6, 2019Credit: AP Photo/Zeke Miller
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Sunday that the U.S. military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating ISIS and on Turkey assuring the safety of Kurdish fighters allied with the United States. Bolton, in Israel, was speaking ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, Bolton added that there is no timetable for the pull-out of American forces, but insisted it's not an unlimited commitment.

"The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement," he said.

Netanyahu will be meeting Bolton later Sunday to discuss joint U.S.-Israel efforts to prevent Iran from further establishing its presence in Syria.

>> With U.S. pullout, Erdogan in pole position to shape Syria to his liking | Analysis

Speaking at the start of the weekly government meeting, Netanyahu said the talk would be a follow-up on U.S. President Donald Trump decision to withdraw American troops from the embattled country, and his own recent phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Netanyahu said the two would discuss "deepening the operational and intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S., which is always tightening."

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton touring the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem, January 6.

As part of his visit, Bolton toured the Old City in Jerusalem and visited the Western Wall along with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David M. Friedman.

Bolton's comments mark the first public confirmation the drawdown has been slowed, as Trump faced widespread criticism from allies and the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a policy that was to have been conducted within weeks.

On Saturday, an unnamed U.S. official traveling alongside Bolton said some American troops could stay in southern Syria despite the pullout.

Last week it was reported that Netanyahu had asked Trump to ensure that the withdrawal be done gradually. According to a political source familiar with the details, the U.S. president was "positively considering" the request.

Netanyahu also addressed his five-day visit to Brazil, which included the inauguration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, praising the former military captain for his planned reforms diplomatic approach to Israel – specifically the intention to move the Brazilian embassy to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu told ministers "We have a new ally, and if someone needs proof for Israel's rising status in the world, you just have to look at what's happening in Brazil – they love us and adore Israel."

Last week, Bolsonaro said "the decision has already been made. What we're talking about now is only the timing." No timetable for the transfer has been presented thus far.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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