Pompeo skips Moscow, heads to Brussels before Putin meeting

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Source: REUTERS

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has canceled his planned visit to Moscow and is instead heading to Brussels, according to a State Department official.

Pompeo was seen boarding a plane at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, late on Sunday night.
While in Brussels, Pompeo will discuss a range of pressing issues, including Iran, with representatives from the UK, Germany and France, the official said.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will also be in Brussels on Monday, alongside his French and German counterparts and the EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said in a statement on Sunday.
The top diplomats will discuss a response to Iran’s threat of breaching certain commitments of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it said.

An FCO spokesperson said the meeting followed Hunt’s discussions with Pompeo last week regarding Iran’s announcement.

“This deal still offers the best prospect of averting a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. While Iran remains in compliance, the UK remains committed to the Iran deal,” the spokesperson said.

Mogherini said Monday morning that everything should be done to avoid escalation around the issue. Speaking in Brussels, she said the EU was continuing to support the “full implementation” of a nuclear deal with Iran.

Mogherini said she was told overnight that Pompeo had changed his travel plans and was scheduled to land mid-morning in Brussels, Belgium, saying “he is always welcome.”

Official forecasts ‘frank discussions’ in Sochi

On Tuesday, Pompeo will proceed as planned to Sochi, Russia, to meet with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders. Pompeo’s travel change was last minute, a senior State Department official said.

The State Department announced on Friday that Pompeo would meet with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi on Tuesday.

The leaders are expected to have “frank discussions” on a broad range of multilateral and bilateral issues, including arms control, Ukraine, Venezuela, North Korea and Iran, according to a senior State Department official.

“It is no secret that we have many areas of disagreement with the Russian government,” the senior State Department official told reporters Friday. “The secretary will have a very candid conversation about concerns in our bilateral relationship” including Russia’s breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and “Kremlin-backed attempts to meddle in US and other foreign elections.”

Russia also continues to hold US citizens, including Paul Whelan and Michael Calvey, in detention, where they have been denied adequate consular services, according to US officials. The state department official said Pompeo was expected to raise that issue during his meetings.

However, the official also noted that there are areas where the US is working jointly with Russia, such as on the Afghan peace process and counterterrorism.