US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called off a trip to Russia and instead made an unscheduled visit to Brussels on Monday to hold talks with European Union officials on Iran amid renewed tensions in the Middle East, officials said.
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 US last year, the Washington Post reported.
Iranian leaders announced last week they would scale back their cooperation under the 2015 agreement, forcing Europe to choose between defying Washington or kissing goodbye to the 2015 deal. Europe sees it as key to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, the report said.
UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt spoke in Brussels of the dangers of an "accidentally-triggered" conflict between the US and Iran over the unravelling of the 2015 pact signed by Tehran, Russia, China, the EU, the UK, France, Germany and the US.
"We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended," said Hunt, adding it was important not to push Tehran back towards re-nuclearization.
Pompeo was expected to talk with European counterparts about the status of the agreement which Washington has walked away from.
According to Efe news, EU officials said that Pompeo was not to take part in discussions within the European Council although he was considering the possibility of holding several meetings on its margins.
He had been due to meet US Embassy staff in Russia, US business leaders and alumni of an exchange programme and take part in a ceremony to honour those who died fighting against Nazi Germany in World War II.
All those events were cancelled to make room for the trip to Brussels, from where Pompeo was still expected to travel to the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
There he was due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss several issues: The challenges in the relationship between the two countries, arms control policies and the situation in Ukraine, Venezuela, Iran, Syria and North Korea.
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