U.S. confirms Tillerson to visit Turkey

Carolyn Kaster  AP

Carolyn Kaster AP

Turkey is the second stop of Tillerson's five-nation visit to the Middle East next week, following a visit to Jordan.

From his first stop in Egypt to his last in Turkey, Tillerson will be confronting crises with partners and allies that threaten military success against the Islamic State group.

The State Department said on February 8 that Tillerson will visit Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kuwait during his trip that has been planned for February 11-16.

Building on Vice President Mike Pence's recent visit to Cairo, Tillerson will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss regional security issues such as Libya and Syria, as well as Israeli-Palestinian issues.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has existed since the Western-backed creation of Israel and the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1948.

Tillerson will raise human rights issues with el-Sissi, according to the U.S. officials, who previewed the trip on condition that they not be named. The opposition is calling for a boycott of the vote, after serious challengers were either arrested or forced to quit the race.

Tillerson will seek to sharpen the priorities of the coalition, many of whose members are increasingly distracted by national interests in Iraq and Syria.

"The secretary and his counterparts will discuss how the 74-member global coalition can ensure an enduring defeat for ISIS in Iraq and Syria", spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

Tillerson will not be making any new USA assistance pledges at the Iraq Reconstruction Conference, the officials said. Instead, he will press companies and banks to boost activities in Iraq to spur long-term development. Still, he hopes to make headway toward ending a dispute between Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, including refugees, is among the most concerned. Speaking of U.S. -Turkish relations, he added: "Look it's hard".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric based in the USA, of orchestrating the attempted coup.

"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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