Pompeo to visit Brussels as Europe meets on Iran


UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt spoke in Brussels of the dangers of an "accidentally-triggered" conflict between the United States and Iran over the unravelling of the 2015 pact signed by Tehran, Russia, China, the European Union, the UK, France, Germany and the US. That followed a period of near silence and high tension, with no calls since August 2018 and Trump canceling a formal meeting with Putin at the G20 in November over Russian seizure of three Ukrainian vessels and 24 sailors.

While the European Union shares some USA concerns about Iran, including over its involvement in the Syrian conflict, it still backs the 2015 nuclear deal, saying that it is in Europe's own security interests.

It would be the third time for Pompeo to abruptly change his scheduled visit because of the Iran issue recently.

At least one, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said he feared that unintentional escalation from the United States and Iran could spark a conflict - an unusually bold statement that appeared to assign equal culpability to Washington and Tehran. "This is already the most unstable region in the world, and this would be a massive step in the wrong direction".

The EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini, coolly announced she had a busy day and that the pair would talk "if we manage to arrange a meeting".

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Before his meeting with Pompeo, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Europeans to remain united in support of the nuclear deal, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russian Federation, and which the EU helped to negotiate.

But she noted that the deal stands a chance if a joint effort is made along with other signatories of the agreement, including China and Russian Federation.

"It is no secret that we have many areas of disagreement with the Russian government", a senior State Department official told reporters at a briefing Friday.

German, French and British foreign ministers gathered to discuss the state of the Iran nuclear deal in Brussels. "Now this instrument needs to be further operationalized and used in order to continue implementing" the nuclear agreement, Maas said.

"I mean first of all the U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and a number of other factors", Putin said when opening a regular series of government meetings on the development of Russia's defense sector. The Europeans insist the agreement was never meant to address those issues but has been effective in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. The State Department declined to comment, but Foreign Policy magazine reported that the statement was released by mistake against Pompeo's wishes. "That continues to be the case", said Pompeo's top Iran adviser, Brian Hook.