RIYADH: New US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday on the first stop of his hastily-arranged visit to the Middle East as decisions on the Iran nuclear deal and a review of the US role in Syria loom large.
A State Department official said the visit to Riyadh, Jerusalem and Amman just two days after Pompeo was sworn-in as America’s top diplomat was also aimed at forging closer ties with important US allies in the Middle East.
Pompeo said on Friday he would discuss the future of the 2015 Iran deal in his talks.
US President Donald Trump has called the nuclear agreement the “worst deal ever” and threatened to reimpose sanctions against Iran unless European allies Britain, France and Germany agree to fix it. Resuming sanctions would likely kill the deal.
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Russia, China, Germany, Britain and France, which all struck the accord with Iran and the United States, see the deal as the best way to stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
Speaking after a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Friday, Pompeo said Trump had not taken a decision on whether to abandon the deal but was not likely to stick to it without substantial changes.
“There’s been no decision, so the team is working and I am sure we will have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear,” Pompeo told a news conference.
Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron called on the United States not to abandon the deal, although later he acknowledged he thought Trump would pull out, based on his long opposition to it.
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The Trump administration is also currently reviewing the US’s role in fighting Islamic State in Syria’s seven-year conflict. Trump has also called on Gulf countries to provide funding and troops to stabilise areas once controlled by the group in Syria.
Pompeo was one of the first Trump administration officials to visit Saudi Arabia early in his tenure as CIA director.
In Riyadh, Pompeo was greeted on the tarmac by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. He is expected to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman during the visit.
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