U.S. adviser Bolton says U.S. conditions Syria withdrawal with safeguarding Kurds
JERUSALEM, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- United States National Security Adviser John Bolton started his visit to Israel on Sunday, saying the U.S. will withdraw from Syria only after Turkey will provide assurance to safeguard Kurds.
Bolton made the remark during a briefing for reporters in Jerusalem, where he arrived on Saturday for the first American official visit since the White House announced its withdrawal plan from Syria.
Bolton said the White House expects Turkey to provide measures to ensure the safety of the Kurds, who were America's allies in their fight against the Islamic State in Syria.
Earlier, Bolton paid a visit to East Jerusalem's Western Wall, the most sacred site to Jews. He toured archaeological excavations there, accompanied by the head of Israel's National Security Council, Meir Ben Shabat, and the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
In the evening, Bolton is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before traveling to Turkey.
During Israel's weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning, Netanyahu referred to Bolton as his "old friend." He told the cabinet that the meeting will focus on Iran's presence in Syria, which the U.S. and Israel see as a threat to Israel.
"I will discuss with him the efforts to stop the Iranian aggression in our region (and) the situation in Syria," Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by his office. He added that the meeting comes as Israel and the U.S. are "deepening' their "intelligence and operative cooperation."
"Our position is clear - we continue to act against the Iranian military buildup in Syria, including in these days, and we are acting against anyone who undermines or tries to undermine Israel's security," Netanyahu said.
Bolton arrived in Israeli on a mission to calm Israeli concerns over U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull U.S.'s 2,000 troops out of Syria.
Israeli officials said an abrupt withdrawal could enable Iran to gain a wider presence in the war-torn country.
On Friday, Netanyahu held a phone talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin, for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal announcement.
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that the two leaders "discussed the situation in Syria and recent developments and agreed on continued coordination between the [Israeli and Russian] militaries."
The prime minister reiterated Israel's stance against Iranian foothold in Syria, saying the Jewish state is "determined to continue its efforts to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria."
While the U.S. announced in December its intentions to pull out of Syria, Russia has been directly involved in the eight-year war with its forces fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad's army since 2015.
Israel says it is not part of the ongoing war but the Israeli military has carried out dozens of air attacks in recent years against Iranian and Syrian army positions in Syria, in addition to weapons convoyed for Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shiite militia.
The military coordination between Israel and Russia over their moves in Syria met difficulties after Syria mistakenly shot down a Russian reconnaissance plane following an Israeli airstrike in September. The plane's 15 aircrew soldiers were killed and Russia said Israel should be held accountable.