Washington is willing to speak with Iran “with no preconditions,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday, but he also stressed that his country would continue working to rein in Tehran’s “malign activity.”
“We are prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions. We are ready to sit down with them,” Pompeo told a joint news conference in Switzerland with Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.
But he added, “The American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue.”
Pompeo was in Switzerland as part of a four-country European tour dominated by increasing tensions between the US and Iran. The secretary of state is seeking to assure European leaders that despite US intentions to step up economic pressure on Tehran with sanctions, Washington is not seeking war with the Islamic Republic and may explore opening a channel of communications with it.
Trump has openly signaled that he wants to talk to Iranian leaders, and neutral Switzerland, which has long represented US interests in Iran, could be a convenient emissary.
Tensions have spiked in recent weeks between Washington and Tehran, with the US accusing Tehran of being behind a string of incidents, including the alleged sabotage of oil tankers off the Emirati coast, a rocket strike near the US Embassy in Baghdad and a coordinated drone attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
The White House has sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Persian Gulf region and withdrawn nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarms over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.
The Trump administration’s hard-line approach with Iran began with the US withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers last year and continued with punishing economic sanctions on the Shiite state.
Last month, Iran announced that if a way could not be found within 60 days to shield it from US sanctions targeting its economy and oil industry, it would increase its enrichment of uranium beyond the purity allowed under the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
A few days later, Tehran said it had increased its uranium-enrichment production capacity, though only of the lower-enriched uranium permitted by the agreement.