Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov both described their discussions on several international issues as “frank.” But that was one of the few things the leaders appeared agree upon — their subsequent press conference revealed a number of areas where the two countries could not come to a consensus.
During their remarks, Lavrov appeared to suggest that the two leaders could not agree on the issue of Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, regarding the regime’s escalating nuclear ambitions. Pompeo had planned a visit to Moscow beforehand, but it was scrapped so that he could travel to Belgium to talk with European officials about the growing threat posed by Iran. “We have many difference here,” Lavrov said, adding that “we will continue to discuss the situation,” and he expressed hope “that certain agreements could be reached with the support of the U.S. and Russia.” The foreign minister criticized the U.S. withdrawal from the international pact, saying it was a “mistake” to withdraw from the JCPOA. He also was critical of U.S. sanctions punishing countries doing business with Iran.
Pompeo meanwhile denied that the U.S. was eyeing military action with the regime for the time being, but he did not rule it out altogether.”We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran,” he said. “We want the regime to stop conducting assassination campaigns.”Pompeo added that reports of U.S. movement of over 100,000 troops to the region would be left up to the Department of Defense. “If American interests are attacked, we will most certainly respond in an appropriation fashion,” said Pompeo. Lavrov, however, hoped that those reports were “just rumors.””This region is already so tense with different conflicts and difficult situations,” Lavrov remarked. The two also differed on the issue of Venezuela, too. Here, Pompeo said he urged his Russian counterpart to reconsider and agree that the “time has come for Nicolas Maduro to go.” “We want every country interfering in Venezuela to cease doing that. We want Venezuela to get their democracy back,” said Pompeo. The U.S. has been critical of Russia for propping up Maduro’s regime. But Russia recognizes Maduro as Venezuela’s legitimate leader and has forces in Venezuela as part of a longstanding military partnership, and in March, sent about 100 more Russian personnel.