USA diplomacy turns schizophrenic Pompeo heads to Russian Federation

USA diplomacy turns schizophrenic Pompeo heads to Russian Federation

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will make his first trip to Russian Federation, arriving in Moscow on Monday and meeting with Vladimir Putin and his Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday in Sochi.

European countries said last week they wanted to preserve the nuclear deal with Iran but rejected "ultimatums" from Tehran.

As tensions between Washington and Tehran over re-imposed US sanctions have heightened in recent weeks, Moscow has sided with Iran in calling for the 2015 nuclear deal to remain in place.

Iran last week announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the agreement, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and imposed swingeing sanctions on the Islamic republic - putting the deal in grave peril.

Pompeo's meeting with Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi will be the highest-level face-to-face talks between the former Cold War foes since the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

"We agree on much more than we disagree ..."

The top U.S. diplomat's trip comes less than two months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller wound up an investigation that found that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 presidential election - but that the Trump campaign did not collude with Moscow.

Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday that Washington was ready to hit back fast and hard in retaliatory strikes against any attacks carried out by Iran or its front-groups and allies.

According to a senior European diplomat, Pompeo decided to make the last-minute change because leaders from the European Union were already planning to meet to discuss recent developments in Iran.

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European Union foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini said plans for meeting Pompeo were still up in the air.

"This is already the most unstable region in the world and it would be a massive step in the wrong direction".

As the USA sanctions bite, domestic pressure is increasing on Rouhani to demonstrate that Iran can still benefit from an agreement based on providing it with economic opportunities in exchange for limiting nuclear development.

The meetings in Brussels followed an announcement by Tehran last week that it will scale back some of its commitments under the agreement if world powers do not protect its interests against USA sanctions.

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

"Along with our E3 partners, we're undertaking efforts to keep enabling legitimate trade with Iran, in particular by providing a payment channel", government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference.

Under the deal, which was signed in 2015, Iran pledged to drastically curb its nuclear program.

USA diplomats downplayed talk of a split.