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Syria, IS, Khashoggi On Agenda For Pompeo, Bolton Middle East Visits

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton, September 2018. File photo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have set trips to the Middle East as Washington looks to boost relations to help it deal with mounting hotspots in the region.

The State Department on January 4 said Pompeo will visit eight countries -- Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait – on a trip that starts on January 8.

A senior State Department official who briefed reporters said one of Pompeo's main messages would be that "the United States is not leaving the Middle East."

While in Saudi Arabia, another U.S. official said, Pompeo will raise the case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi and continue to push for accountability and credibility from the Saudi leadership in the matter.

Bolton is leaving for the region on January 5 and is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before moving on to Turkey, where he will be joined by General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Bolton will travel to Israel and Turkey to discuss the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, and how the U.S. will work with allies and partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, stand fast with those who fought with us against ISIS, and counter Iranian malign behavior in the region," Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said.

They will be accompanied in Turkey by veteran diplomat James Jeffrey, the current special representative for Syrian engagement who has just added the role as special envoy to the global coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

They are expected to pressure Turkish officials not to launch an offensive targeting Kurdish fighters in Syria.

The United States announced plans to pull out its 2,000 troops from Syria, where they have been supporting an alliance of Arab an Kurdish forces fighting IS.

Ankara accuses the Syrian Kurdish fighters as having links to Kurdish insurgents operating in Turkey and has vowed to drive them out of the Turkish-Syrian border area.

Based on reporting by dpa, AP and Reuters