U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attends a press conference with Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis at the CastelGrande as part of Pompeo’s visit in Bellinzona, Switzerland, Sunday, 2 June 2019. (Samuel Golay/Keystone via AP)

Pompeo says US ready to talk to Iran with ‘no preconditions’

Pompeo repeated long-standing U.S. accusations that Iran is bent on destabilizing the region

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that the Trump administration is ready for unconditional discussions with Iran in an effort to ease rising tensions that have sparked fears of conflict. But the United States will not relent in trying to pressure the Islamic Republic to change its behaviour in the Middle East, America’s top diplomat said.

Pompeo repeated long-standing U.S. accusations that Iran is bent on destabilizing the region, but he also held out the possibility of talks as President Donald Trump has suggested. While the offer may not pan out, Pompeo made it during a visit to Switzerland, the country that long has represented American interests in Iran, as part of a European trip aimed at assuring wary leaders that the U.S. is not eager for war.

“We’re prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions,” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference with his Swiss counterpart. “We’re ready to sit down with them, but the American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue.”

Iran’s foreign minister dismissed Trump’s invitation for Iranian officials to contact him about possible talks.

“It’s not very likely because talking is the continuation of the process of pressure. He is imposing pressure. This may work in a real estate market. It does not work in dealing with Iran, Javad Zarif told ABC’s “This Week.”

Pompeo’s meeting with Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis in the southern Swiss town of Bellinzona came amid concerns about the potential for escalation and miscalculation with Iran — a situation that has many in Europe and the Middle East on edge.

Cassis, whose country has been an intermediary between the two before, made no secret of that nervousness.

“The situation is very tense. We are fully aware, both parties are fully aware, of this tension. Switzerland, of course, wishes there is no escalation, no escalation to violence,” he said. “Both parties are now increasing the pressure, and for the rest this is a matter of worry, but we cannot do anything unless we get a mandate from both parties.”

Cassis said Switzerland would be pleased to serve as an intermediary, but not a “mediator,” between the United States and Iran. To do so, however, would require requests from both sides, he said.

Neither he nor Pompeo would say if such requests had been made of the Swiss.

Pompeo thanked Switzerland, which serves as the “protecting power” for the United States in Iran, for looking after Americans detained there. Trump administration officials have suggested they would look positively at any move to release at least five American citizens and at least two permanent U.S. residents currently imprisoned in Iran.

Pompeo declined to comment on whether he had made a specific request to the Swiss about the detainees. But, he said the release of unjustly jailed Americans in Iran and elsewhere is a U.S. priority.

Pompeo was in Switzerland on the second leg after Germany of a four-nation tour of Europe in which he is both trying to calm nerves and stressing that the U.S. will defend itself and not relent in raising pressure on Iran with economic sanctions.

ALSO READ: On eve of UK visit, Trump backs Boris Johnson, dings Meghan Markle

Despite the firm stance, Trump has signalled a willingness to talk with Iran’s leadership. Iranian officials have hinted at the possibility but also insisted they will not be bulled.

“If they want to talk, I’m available,” Trump said last week, even as Pompeo and the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, were stepping up warnings that any attack on American interests by Iran or its proxies would draw a rapid and significant U.S. response.

The U.S. is sending hundreds of additional troops to the region after blaming Iran and Iranian proxies for recent sabotage to tankers in the Persian Gulf and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.

Some analysts believe Iran is acting to restore leverage it has lost since Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and the U.S. reimposed sanctions that have hobbled Iran’s economy.

Last month, the administration ended sanctions waivers that had allowed certain countries to continue to import Iranian oil, the country’s main source of revenue, without U.S. penalties. The U.S. also designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a “foreign terrorist organization,” adding new layers of sanctions to foreigners that might do business with it or its affiliates.

Despite the U.S. withdrawal, Iran has remained a party to the nuclear deal that involves the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany and the European Union. Iran has continued to broadly comply with the terms, which called for it to curb its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. On Friday, however, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported that Iran may be in violation of limits on the number of advanced centrifuges it can use.

Pompeo declined to comment on the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency other than to say the U.S. is “watching closely” what is going on in Iran.

“The world should be mindful of how we are watching closely how Iran is complying with the requirements that were set out,” he said.

ALSO READ: Mexican avocado growers expect US consumers to bear tariffs

Matthew Lee, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Chilliwack MLA moved to action by disturbing traffic video

Throness to lobby for safety measures for school kids after viewing Chilliwack mother’s video footage

UPDATE: ‘Spontaneous combustion’ likely cause of fire at mushroom composting facility on Lougheed Highway

First responders were at the blaze near the Skawahlook First Nation Tuesday

Approval for AirBnB-style rentals in Kent delayed after public hearing

Staff will be taking the bylaw amendments back for a closer look before final adoption

Kent Harrison Emergency Support team honoured for work during 2017 wildfire season

The volunteer group was activated for 254 days in a row to help evacuees

Trial dates set for three men accused of 2017 killing near Hope

Lawyers for the accused appeared in Kelowna at B.C. Supreme Court on Monday

VIDEO: Reading splashes into Agassiz’s Ferny Coombe Pool

The Agassiz Library held its annual Reading in the Pool event Friday, June 14

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Plane veers off runway, into ditch at Langley Airport

Fire, ambulance, and police are on scene

Okanagan RCMP bike patrol rolls up on alleged stolen vehicle from Burnaby

The driver, a 30-year-old Kelowna man, has been held in custody and is facing possible charges of possession of stolen property and obstructing a police officer

Most Read