US ready for unconditional talks with Iran: Pompeo
US 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, The Washington Post reported.
The United States, however, will not relent in trying to pressure the Islamic Republic to change its behavior in the Middle East, Pompeo noted.
Pompeo repeated long-standing US 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 US 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,” the top US diplomat added.
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,” Cassis said, adding that “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.
Pompeo thanked Switzerland, which serves as the “protecting power” for the United States in Iran, for looking after Americans detained there.
He 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 US 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.