WASHINGTON, Jan. 1 - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday postponed a trip to Ukraine so he could focus on the situation in Iraq after demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassy, Reuters reported.
Supporters of Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary groups stormed the U.S. embassy's perimeter and hurled rocks in two days of protests. They withdrew on Wednesday after Washington dispatched extra troops and threatened reprisals against Tehran.
Pompeo postponed his trip to Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Cyprus "due to the need for the Secretary to be in Washington, D.C., to continue monitoring the ongoing situation in Iraq and ensure the safety and security of Americans in the Middle East," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Pompeo expected to land in Kyiv on Friday, and he planned to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
Pompeo was set to reaffirm U.S. support for Ukraine on the highest-level U.S. visit since President Donald Trump’s impeachment over his handling of relations with Ukraine.
Katharine Quinn-Judge, a senior analyst and Ukraine expert with the International Crisis Group, an independent organization devoted to conflict prevention, said Ukrainians hope the United States will remain a solid ally as Ukraine tries to counter Russian aggression and nurture its fledgling democracy, USA Today reporte.
The Ukraine scandal created upheaval inside the State Department and the National Security Council and led to the departure of a half-dozen seasoned foreign policy officials with Ukraine expertise. Trump's special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, resigned in September. Tim Morrison, the president's national security expert on Russia and Europe, left in October.
William Taylor, the top American diplomat in Ukraine, was supposed to leave his post on Friday, Quinn-Judge said.
Taylor replaced Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Pompeo cut short her tenure amid a campaign for her ouster by Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, who accused her of obstructing the investigations Trump wanted.
All those American diplomats testified before the House impeachment inquiry. Taylor's presence in Kyiv could have been particularly awkward for Pompeo, since the longtime foreign service officer provided testimony to the House impeachment committees.
Taylor told lawmakers he was alarmed at Giuliani's foreign policy operation, and he feared Trump was using nearly $400 million in U.S. security assistance for Ukraine as leverage to get Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate. Trump also wanted Zelenskiy to probe a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. (rt/ut/ez)