The US secretary of state Mike Pompeo is beginning a tour of European and Middle Eastern states on Friday despite the ongoing political chaos at home, and with the topic of Donald Trump’s refusal to concede expected to dominate his visits.
The week-long tour will see Mr Pompeo, a staunch supporter of President Trump, visit France, Turkey, Georgia, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Each of these countries has already congratulated Mr Trump’s Democrat rival Joe Biden on his election victory.
On Friday, the number of countries yet to acknowledge Mr Biden’s status as president-elect got smaller still, as China issued a statement saying saying it “respect[s] the choice of the American people”. Russia, another country which has had strained relations with the US during Mr Trump’s term, is still yet to congratulate Mr Biden.
But even some of the countries on Mr Pompeo’s itinerary have had run-ins with the Trump administration, including France, Turkey and Qatar. It was unclear on Friday whether the secretary of state would actually be meeting with senior leaders from these nations during his trip.
Mr Pompeo has said the state department will be ready to work with the president from 20 January whoever that may be, but he also raised eyebrows with a comment saying there would be a “smooth transition… to a second Trump administration”. It was a reference to the fact that Mr Trump still claims he can win, with legal challenges in several key states.
Many world leaders have been sending messages to and conducting calls with Mr Biden in the past few days, but according to reports the state department is refusing to act as an intermediary, as would normally be the case with a president-elect.
Asked about the situation, Mr Pompeo said: “I'm the secretary of state. I'm getting calls from all across the world. These people are watching our election. They understand that we have a legal process. They understand that this takes time.”
Mr Pompeo’s visit to the seven nations will focus on furthering the Trump administration‘s foreign policy goals, shoring up support for the US in its disagreements with China and Iran.
Over the past few months, Mr Pompeo has made other trips with similar agendas – just before the election, he spoke out repeatedly against China during a tour of Asian nations including India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia and Vietnam.
He has also led efforts to strengthen the Quad - a grouping of four nations, India, the US, Japan and Australia - which have the shared goal of containing China’s growing dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.
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