Pompeo to visit US allies in Europe, Gulf region

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday announced a seven-nation tour of US allies, which have congratulated President-elect Joe Biden despite Donald Trump's refusal to concede, AFP reported.

At a press conference on Tuesday Pompeo indicated that the State Department is working as if President Donald Trump won re-election. "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," Pompeo said. He announced he will leave Friday for Paris and then head to Istanbul and the former Soviet republic of Georgia before visiting Jerusalem and three key Gulf Arab allies -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

The trip will discuss Trump's "historic efforts to forge peace and cooperation throughout the Middle East," Pompeo told reporters.

The trip will likely be awkward as Trump has denied that he lost last week's election and his administration has refused to start the transition to Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20.

France, which like many European nations had strained relations with Trump, swiftly voiced hope of working with Biden, who shares French priorities on fighting climate change, cooperating against the Covid-19 pandemic and pursuing diplomacy with Iran.

But Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, all friends of Trump, have also congratulated Biden. The Democrat has pledged to place a higher priority on human rights and democracy, calling for a re-evaluation of the relationship with Saudi Arabia and for support for Turkey's opposition.

Pompeo on his trip is expected to discuss raising further pressure on Iran in the remaining two months of the Trump administration, which in 2018 bolted from a multinational denuclearization accord with Tehran and imposed punishing unilateral sanctions. Israel and Gulf Arabs have seen growing relations as they share the Trump administration's hostility to Iran.

In September, both the UAE and Bahrain said they would recognize the Jewish state and Trump had pressed Saudi Arabia to follow suit. Sudan has also said it will normalize relations with Israel.

While Pompeo has been a frequent visitor in the Middle East, it will be his first solo trip to Paris; his only other trip was when he joined Trump for the 2018 ceremony marking the centennial of the end of World War I.

Pompeo will also be the first secretary of state since John Kerry to visit Georgia. The country recently held elections that were disputed, with the opposition saying the vote was rigged and staging protests.


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