Pompeo snubbed in final Europe trip

Robin Emmott and Humeyra Pamuk
·2-min read

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has cancelled his Europe trip at the last minute after Luxembourg's foreign minister and top European Union officials declined to meet him, European and US diplomats familiar with the matter say.

The extraordinary snub of the top US diplomat, first reported by Reuters, came days after the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump, an unprecedented attack on American democracy that stunned many world leaders and US allies.

Pompeo, a close ally of Trump, had sought to meet Jean Asselborn in Luxembourg, a small but wealthy NATO ally, before meeting EU leaders and the bloc's top diplomat in Brussels, three people close to the planning told Reuters.

But the initial plan to go to Luxembourg was scrapped after officials there showed reluctance to grant Pompeo appointments. The Brussels leg was still on until the last minute.

But the thin itinerary of Pompeo's final visit to Brussels raised questions about the merit of the trip. No meetings were on his schedule with EU officials or any public events at NATO. A third diplomatic source said allies were "embarrassed" by Pompeo after the violence in Washington last Wednesday that left five dead.

Trump encouraged his supporters at a rally earlier that day to march on the building while lawmakers were certifying Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's election victory. The Republican president claims, without evidence, that the election was stolen from him.

Pompeo condemned the violence but made no reference to the role that Trump's baseless claims played in galvanising the march on the Capitol.

Appalled by the violence, Luxembourg's Asselborn had called Trump a "criminal" and a "political pyromaniac" on RTL Radio the next day.

Luxembourg's foreign ministry confirmed the previously planned stop there was cancelled but declined to give further details. The EU declined to comment.

The US State Department attributed the cancellation to transition work before Biden takes office on January 20, even if Pompeo had been reluctant until recently to unequivocally recognise Biden's win. The State Department declined further comment on European officials' rejection of meetings with Pompeo.

In Brussels, Pompeo was due to have a private dinner with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday evening at Stoltenberg's private residence before meeting Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, whose country is a NATO ally.