Pompeo cancels visit to Moscow, goes to Brussels to talk Iran issues

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boards a plane before departing from London Stansted Airport north of London

Frustrated by the EU's response to the unraveling of the nuclear deal, Iran announced last week that it would withdraw from "voluntary commitments" made in the 2015 accord.

"This deal still offers the best prospect of averting a nuclear arms race in the Middle East", a British Foreign Office spokesman said before the deal.

The visit came as Washington warned of heightened tensions in the region and Pompeo sought to have talks with top diplomats from the UK, Germany and France, the State Department said.

Before his meeting with Pompeo, France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Europeans to remain united in support of the nuclear deal, which was signed by the United States, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russian Federation, and which the EU helped to negotiate.

Pompeo's plane arrived at its destination on Monday without formal confirmation from European leaders that any would actually meet him.

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. Secretary Pompeo will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. "So we will see during the day how and if will manage to arrange a meeting", she told reporters.

"The most responsible attitude to take", Mogherini said, "should be that of maximum restraint and avoiding any escalation on the military side".

The last-minute decision - announced as Pompeo hopped on a plane - set up a confrontation between him and European diplomats who have been scrambling to save the Iranian nuclear deal which was abandoned by the U.S. a year ago, the Washington Post reported.

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Pompeo's trip comes a few weeks ahead of a G-20 summit meeting in Osaka, Japan, with both U.S. President Donald Trump and Putin expected to attend.

"What we need is a period of calm to make sure that everyone understands what the other side is thinking", Hunt said, adding that he would share those concerns Monday with European partners and Pompeo.

What is the Iran nuclear deal?

In the agreement, which was signed in 2015, Iran agreed to curtail its nuclear ambitions and refrain from developing ballistic missiles in return for a lifting of sanctions.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the USA move to ramp up sanctions against Iran to curb its global oil trade "does not suit us". Also yesterday, the Ministry announced that Pompeo is to visit May 13-14 at the request of the United States, meet Lavrov on May 14, and possibly meet President Vladimir Putin.

The Head of U.S. diplomacy will also be welcomed in the southern Russian resort by President Vladimir Putin, the Vice Minister stated. A wide range of issues will be on the agenda in Sochi, Russian officials said, including policy in Venezuela, Iran, and Ukraine.

Pompeo's visit to Brussels was announced at the last minute and if he came hoping for a show of transatlantic unity against Iran, he was disappointed, with Britain, France and Germany all publicly criticising the hardline U.S. approach.

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