Despite reports of continued fighting, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced hope on Friday that a U.S.-brokered cease-fire agreement would hold between Turkey and Syria's Kurds.
"We're very hopeful that we will be able to continue to implement and execute" the deal, said Pompeo after meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels.
Witnesses reported seeing smoke rising near the Turkey-Syria border, with Kurdish officials saying heavy fighting was continuing Friday.
While acknowledging "there was some activity today," the top U.S. diplomat said, "We're hopeful in the hours ahead that both the Turks, who were part of the agreement alongside of us, as well as the YPG [Kurdish People's Protection Units] fighters in the region will take seriously the commitments that they made."
Thumbs up from Stoltenberg
For his part, Stoltenberg said he welcomed the fact that the two NATO allies, U.S. and Turkey, had agreed on a way forward after Turkey's military incursion into northeast Syria.
"We all know and understand that the situation in northeast Syria is fragile, difficult, but I believe that this [cease-fire] statement can help to de-escalate the situation and therefore help to improve the situation on the ground," he said.
"We must not jeopardize the gains we have made in the fight against our common enemy, Daesh," added Stoltenberg, referring to the Islamic State terror group's Arab acronym.
Earlier on Friday, Pompeo reaffirmed U.S.-Israel ties and joint efforts to counter Iran, in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid concerns in Israel that Tehran could exploit a U.S. military pullback in Syria.
“We talked about all the efforts we've made to push back against the threat not only to Israel but to the region and the world from the Islamic Republic of Iran, and we shared our ideas about how we can ensure Middle East stability together, and how we would further our efforts to jointly combat all the challenges that the world confronts here in the Middle East,” said Pompeo after his meeting with Netanyahu.
The meeting came a day after a U.S. delegation, led by Vice President Mike Pence, reached an agreement with Turkey for Ankara to pause its military offensive against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria for five days.
"We hope things will turn out for the best," Netanyahu said Friday, without elaborating, when asked about the cease-fire deal brokered by the United States, and if the cessation of hostilities would hold between Turkey and Syria's Kurds.
Turkey’s incursion into northeast Syria came after a partial U.S. withdrawal of troops. Turkey views Kurdish fighters as terrorists, alleging their links to an insurgency group inside Turkey. But Kurdish fighters have fought alongside U.S. forces in the battle against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.
Israel has strongly condemned the offensive. Netanyahu has warned of an “ethnic cleansing” against the Kurds.