Tillerson heads to Middle East amid new Syria carnage

US President Donald Trump

S Secretary Tillerson to travel to Middle East

The rhetoric is hot. In Amman, Tillerson is expected to sign a multiyear, multibillion dollar US aid package with Jordan to shore up the relationship. On Feb. 1, Amnesty International's Turkey chairman, Taner Kilic, was re-arrested and placed back in pretrial detention.

Given the news, Tillerson has "not ruled out" adding a stop in Israel in order to help diffuse the situation, a State Department official said. Kilic is facing terrorism charges.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric based in the US, of orchestrating the attempted coup. Ankara has also asked Washington to extradite Gulen. Turkey considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization, alleging it is an extension of a Kurdish group fighting for autonomy in Turkey for decades.

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.

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North and South Korea have shared a heavily fortified border since the Korean War ended in a ceasefire, not a peace treaty. If peace isn't imminent, a summit in Pyongyang between Moon and Kim Jong Un seems preferable to recent months' threats.

Tillerson's trip to Cairo, where he will meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to emphasise joint security cooperation, takes place just as Egypt has launched a major military offensive against militants on the Sinai peninsula. He'll look to address Turkey's concerns about its borders in way to avoid killing civilians.

He then travels to Kuwait to lead the US delegation to two global gatherings: That of the 74 members in the USA -led anti-Islamic State coalition and a conference on Iraqi reconstruction.

In previewing Tillerson's visit, a State Department official told reporters that "I wouldn't read too much into the fact that there's no Israel stop" and noted that the former oil executive frequently meets with Israeli officials and "stays abreast of the issues". In Beirut, he will meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. He will also participate in the Iraq Reconstruction Conference, which is the first since Islamic State was defeated in Raqqa, Syria and Iraq declared some of its own territory liberated.

Tillerson will not be making any new United States assistance pledges at the Iraq Reconstruction Conference, the officials said.

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