Rex Tillerson visits the Middle East to ease new tensions

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Carolyn Kaster  AP

The Trump administration’s appeal for unity fell on a critical deaf ear Tuesday as the latest expression of US support for Kurdish rebels in Syria enraged America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, Turkey, and overshadowed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s plea for nations fighting the Islamic State to overcome rivalries and concentrate on eradicating the extremist group from the Middle East. On Monday, the speaker of the Egyptian Parliament also denounced boycott organizers as unpatriotic.

Tillerson, who began a five-nation visit to the Middle East with a stop in Egypt Monday, touched in talks with Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukri on a set of topics, including economic and military cooperation, and the fight against terrorism.

He also reiterated calls for free and fair elections in Egypt, where presidential polls are slated for next month.

“This is one of the areas of deep, deep concern on the part of the administration and the US government”, Nauert told reporters in the USA capital.

“The U.S. commitment to keep its promise to maintain steady aid to the kingdom reflects the depth of our strategic relationship and a recognition of the kingdom’s key role in maintaining regional stability”, the official told Reuters.

Ahead of the trip a State Department official pointed to “concerns about human rights and civil society” as “a topic of continuing conversation with the Egyptians”.

The fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group is far from over, the USA secretary of state has said, urging unity among Arab countries in the Gulf for the sake of regional stability. “But they’re also partners with whom we’re facing some of the toughest issues that we have to face in the region”.

Last December, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, sparking widespread condemnation and protest from across the Arab and Muslim world.

On Syria’s almost seven-year war, Tillerson reiterated that the conflict can only be resolved through a UN-sponsored political framework.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi underlined, during his meeting with Tillerson, Egypt’s clear and firm position on reaching a just and comprehensive solution that guarantees the rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of an independent state based on the borders of June 4, 1967.

The United States on Tuesday urged members of the coalition fighting Islamic State to help rebuild Iraq or risk a reversal of the gains made against the group, and said it would extend to Baghdad a $3bn credit line.

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