House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of American lawmakers on a surprise visit to Jordan to discuss “the deepening crisis” in Syria amid a shaky U.S.-brokered cease-fire.
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The visit came after bipartisan criticism in Washington has slammed President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from northern Syria — clearing the way for Turkey’s wide-ranging offensive against the Kurdish groups, who had been key U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkey agreed on Thursday to suspend its offensive for five days, demanding the Kurdish forces withdraw from a designated strip of the border about 30 kilometers deep (19 miles).
Pelosi, along with the nine-member Congressional delegation, met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the capital of Amman late Saturday for talks focusing on security and “regional stability,” according to a statement from her office.
Jordan is a key U.S. ally in the region and has been greatly affected by the eight-year-long civil war in neighboring Syria. Jordanian officials say the kingdom hosts some 1 million Syrians who have fled the fighting.
“With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey’s incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia,” said the statement, using the Islamic State group’s acronym.
Jordan’s state news agency Petra said Abdullah stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and guarantees for the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees.
“The meeting also covered regional and international efforts to counter terrorism within a comprehensive approach,” the agency said.
The Congressional delegation included Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who is leading the impeachment probe into President Trump; Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. There was one GOP member of the group, Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
The U.S. Embassy in Amman said the delegation left Jordan early Sunday but gave no further details on where it was heading.
Many Democrat and Republican lawmakers say that the U.S. pullout could make way for rivals like Iran and Russia, who back Syrian President Bashar Assad.
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