Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

US Secretary of State arrives in Cairo to start Mideast tour

US Secretary of State arrives in Cairo to start Mideast tour

Tillerson spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, hours after Israel's downing of an Iranian drone, subsequent strikes in Syria and the shooting down of an Israeli fighter jet.

Prior to the weekend's flare-up, ex-US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro criticized Tillerson's decision to skip Israel while in the Middle East.

US officials agreed on Friday that most of Tillerson's discussions will likely be hard, saying those with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey will probably be especially prickly given Turkish military action against USA -backed Kurdish rebels in northern Syria and escalating anti-American rhetoric in Ankara.

It is the second visit of a senior U.S. official to the Middle East region, after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's Mideast tour in January, since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized last December the debatable holy city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel amid regional and global outcry. His meetings Monday include President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Tillerson will repeat warnings for Turkey to show restraint in military operations in Kurdish areas of Syria, according to USA officials who talked with foreign media outlets on Sunday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric based in the USA, of orchestrating the attempted coup. The opposition is boycotting as some potential rivals have been arrested or barred from running.

Tillerson travels to Kuwait next to lead the USA delegation at two global gatherings - that of the 74 members in the US -led, anti-Daesh coalition and a conference on Iraqi reconstruction.

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The U.S. officials said the aim was to keep the coalition focused on the complete defeat of IS and other groups, and then rebuilding war-devastated zones to prevent extremists from regaining territory.

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 U.S. secretary of state since 2014. Instead, he'll press companies and banks to boost activities in Iraq to spur long-term development. Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, including refugees, is among the most concerned.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to the Middle East amid rising tensions over heightened violence in Syria.

Tillerson will conclude the tour in Ankara, Turkey, with surely tense talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"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 senior US State Department official told reporters ahead of Tillerson's tour that begins Sunday.

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