US secretary of state makes surprise visit to Baghdad

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to Baghdad, an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official has told Anadolu Agency.

Pompeo is currently on a tour of the Middle East aimed at reassuring Washington’s regional allies of continued U.S. support despite a planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.

According to the source, who spoke anonymously as he was not authorized to talk to media, Pompeo has already met with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbusi and Iraqi President Barham Salih.

During his meeting with the latter, Pompeo reiterated Washington’s keenness “to maintain friendly ties with Iraq at all levels”, according to a statement released subsequently by Salih’s office.

The U.S. secretary of state also reportedly stressed at the meeting Washington’s continued commitment to the fight against terrorism.

Pompeo also voiced his country’s readiness to contribute to the reconstruction of post-Daesh Iraq, especially in areas once occupied by the notorious terrorist group, according to the same statement.

Salih, for his part, stressed at the meeting the need for “constructive dialogue between all relevant parties with a view to achieving peace and security”.

Iraq, he added, “is keen to build balanced relations with all friendly and allied countries based on mutual respect and the principle of sovereignty”.

Pompeo was in Jordan on Tuesday for the first leg of a wider tour of the region that will also take him to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

Iraq had not been included in Pompeo’s initial travel itinerary.

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