S Secretary Tillerson to travel to Middle East

S Secretary Tillerson to travel to Middle East

Tillerson sees tough talks with Turkey on northern Syria

U.S. officials are deeply concerned that a direct conflict between Israel and Iran might escalate into a war, after a drone of Iranian origin entered Israeli airspace over the weekend, prompting an Israeli military response against Iranian assets in Syria and the loss of an Israeli jet in the process.

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.

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kuwait from 11 to 16 February.

Tillerson will arrive in Cairo late Sunday, days after Egyptian security forces launched major security operations against militants in the Sinai, Nile Delta and Western Desert.

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.

In September, 2017, President Sisi met with U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson on the sidelines of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72). The opposition is calling for a boycott of the vote, after serious challengers were either arrested or forced to quit the race.

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After Cairo, Tillerson is to head to Kuwait to take part in a ministerial meeting of the US-led military coalition that has been battling the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

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.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces "difficult" talks next week with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey on Syria and human rights, his delegation said Friday before a regional tour. Some 2,300 representatives from the private sector, including from more than 100 American companies, are slated to attend.

The Secretary will meet with senior Egyptian officials in Cairo to discuss the US-Egypt partnership, how we can further strengthen it, and coordinate on key regional issues. Jordan, which has a large Palestinian population, including refugees, is among the most concerned.

A U.S. State Department official told Haaretz Sunday Tillerson, who is now on a five-country tour of the Middle East, still has no plans to change his schedule and add a stop in Israel.

Tillerson will conclude the tour in Ankara, Turkey, with surely tense talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The U.S. officials said Tillerson will repeat warnings for Turkey to show restraint in military operations in Kurdish areas of Syria.

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