Pompeo to hold talks on Iran in Brussels on way to Russia

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Downing Street in London, Britain, 8 May 2019. [Will Oliver/EPA/EFE]

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will cancel the Moscow leg of his Russia trip, but will meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi as planned on Tuesday (14 May), a State Department official said.

Pompeo, who departed from Joint Base Andrews near Washington en route for Brussels, will hold talks with European officials on Iran and other issues on Monday before heading to Russia, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Last week, European countries said they wanted to preserve Iran’s nuclear deal and rejected “ultimatums” from Tehran, after Iran eased curbs on its nuclear programme and threatened moves that might breach the 2015 international pact.

Iran’s announcement on Wednesday, related to curbs on its stockpiling of nuclear materials, was in response to US sanctions imposed following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the accord with Tehran a year ago.

Iran threatens to abandon nuclear deal commitments, putting agreement at risk

Iran will abandon two of its commitments under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The announcement on Wednesday (8 May) comes exactly one year after the Trump administration pulled out of the landmark accord and leaves most of the international community worried.

On his first trip to Russia as US secretary of state, Pompeo is expected to discuss with Putin and Lavrov the “aggressive and destabilising actions” Moscow has taken around the world, a senior state department official said last week.

Pompeo would reiterate US concerns about Russia’s role in Venezuela and Syria and its breach of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, as well as Russian attempts to meddle in US elections, the official told reporters in a preview of his trip.

INF treaty end would give US, Russia impetus to make more nukes: study

The demise of the only US-Russia arms control pact limiting deployed nuclear weapons would make it harder for each to gauge the other’s intentions, giving both incentives to expand their arsenals, according to a study to be released on Monday (1 April).

Trump spoke with Putin by telephone on 3 May, and said they discussed the possibility of a new accord limiting nuclear arms that could eventually include China in what would be a major deal between the globe’s top three atomic powers.

The 2011 New START treaty, the only US-Russia arms control pact limiting deployed strategic nuclear weapons, expires in February 2021 but can be extended for five years if both sides agree. Without the pact, it could be harder to gauge each other’s intentions, arms control advocates say.

Trump has called the New START treaty concluded by his predecessor, Barack Obama, a “bad deal” and “one-sided”.

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