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Bolton Reassures Netanyahu of US Support for Israeli Right to Self-Defense

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The US’s al Tanf military outpost in southern Syria Oct. 22 2018

Last month Donald Trump said he would be withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria after claiming ISIS had been defeated in the region.

The pullout announcedon December 19 was initially expected to be completed within weeks, but the timetable has slowed as the president acceded to requests from aides, allies and members of US Congress for a more orderly withdrawal.

"There is absolutely no change in the USA position against the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and absolutely no change in our position that any use of chemical weapons would be met by a very strong response, as we've done twice before", Bolton told reporters on his plane shortly before landing in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Mr Trump said: 'We have defeated Isis in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency'.

That announcement was met with criticism from members of both parties, and was followed by two high-profile resignations: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

Kurdish forces based in the north of Syria fought alongside the United States against the so-called Islamic State, but fear attack from Turkey after Washington announced it would be pulling out its forces from the region.

The comments by John Bolton during a visit to Israel signalled a far more gradual U.S. withdrawal than initially set out by Trump, whose Dec 19 announcement concerned allies and led to the resignation of defence secretary Jim Mattis.

Bolton, on a trip to Israel and Turkey, said he would stress in talks with Turkish officials, including President Tayyip Erdogan, that Kurdish forces must be safeguarded, Reuters reported.

Bolton warned Turkey against taking any military action in Syria without consent from the USA, ahead of his planned trip to the country Monday.

USA and United Kingdom forces have been carrying out air strikes against ISIS in Syria as part of their plan to defeat ISIS. "And despite getting out of the Iran nuclear deal, despite the sanctions, we have little doubt that Iran's leadership is still strategically committed to achieving deliverable nuclear weapons", he said, standing next to Netanyahu. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders. "I think they know who their friends are", he added, speaking of the Kurds.

He said the withdrawal would take place in northeastern Syria, while some forces may remain to the south at the al-Tanf garrison as part of efforts to counter Iran's presence.

Fighting alongside Arab and Kurdish forces, American troops have been largely successful in pushing back the Islamic State and stabilizing the country, since entering Syria in 2014.

Bolton made the remarks during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Sunday decried Israeli calls for demolishing sections of walls of Jerusalem's Old City. He watched a virtual reality tour of the historic site and dined there with his Israeli equivalent, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 war, a move not recognized by most of the worldwide community.

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