Britain, France and Germany voiced new support Monday for the international pact to curb Iran's nuclear weapons program, while warning the United States against increasing tensions in the Persian Gulf region with its show of military force and efforts to undermine the Iranian economy.
Top diplomats from the three European allies of the U.S. met in Brussels with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after he cancelled a planned stopover in Moscow en route to a meeting Tuesday in Russian resort of Sochi with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The U.S. State Department said Pompeo would talk with the allies about 'recent threatening actions and statements by the Islamic Republic of Iran.' Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned last week that Tehran could resume uranium enrichment at a higher grade if the European powers, China and Russia did not develop a plan to thwart punitive U.S. sanctions on Iran's banking and energy sectors.
The U.S., which withdrew from the 2015 international deal to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions, has moved the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and four B-52 bombers to the Middle East in response to concerns Iran may be planning an attack against American targets.
But the European allies warned the U.S. against an escalation of tensions.
'Period of calm' urged
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for 'a period of calm.'
He said, 'We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side but ends with some kind of conflict.'
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin 'still regards this nuclear agreement as the basis for Iran not having any nuclear weapons in the future and we regard this as existential for our security.' He said Germany is 'concerned about the development and the tensions in the region, that we do not want there to be a military escalation.'
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the U.S. move to ramp up sanctions against Iran to curb its international oil trade 'does not suit us.'
In advance of the talks, State Department spokesman Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo would 'continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners and ensure the security of our mutual interests in the Middle East and around the world.'
Originally the top U.S. diplomat had planned to meet Monday with U.S. diplomats and business leaders in Moscow.
There was a late Sunday change of plans, with Pompeo deciding to stop in Belgium first. The schedule for the rest of the U.S. top diplomat's trip plans remain intact.
Pompeos 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.
Pompeos trip to Russia also comes as tensions simmer between the two countries over Iran.
The U.S. is strengthening its military presence in the Middle East in what officials said was a direct response to a number of troubling and escalatory indicators and warnings' from Iran.
On Wednesday, Lavrov asked Pompeo to use diplomacy instead of threats to solve issues after Lavrovs talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Moscow.