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Pompeo demands Iran release US detainees, urges Libya ceasefire

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (not pictured) attend a joint news conference at the medieval Castelgrande castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland June 2, 2019. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded on Wednesday that Iran release US detainees.

Last week, Tehran released US Navy veteran Michael White, who had been detained in the country since his arrest in July 2018, and in exchange the Washington released Majid Taheri on Monday, an Iranian-American scientist detained for 16 months for violating US sanctions.

Pompeo thanked US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook for securing his release and the Swiss government for their assistance.

“The work is not done, Baquer Namazi, Siamak Namazi, and Morad Tahbaz are Americans still wrongfully detained by the Iranian regime. Tehran must release them immediately,” Pompeo said during a press conference to discuss an annual state department report on religious freedoms.

Commenting on Libya, Pompeo welcomed the resumption of talks led by the United Nations and called on Libya’s warring parties to continue to negotiate in good faith.

He said the agreement between the weak internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army, led by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, to reenter UN security talks “was a good first step, very positive. Quick and good faith negotiations are now required to implement a cease-fire and relaunch the UN-led intra-Libyan political talks.”

Egypt called for a cease-fire starting on Monday, as part of an initiative which also proposed an elected leadership council for Libya.

Pompeo’s comments come a day after European ministers also urged all parties to stop the fighting, end all military operations, and “engage constructively in the 5+5 negotiations,” they said in a joint statement, in reference to a joint military commission that helped broker the cease-fire in Cairo earlier this month.

Pompeo said that “putting Libya on the path to economic recovery means preserving Libyan oil facilities and strong access to the national oil corporation.”

Libya has been mired by fighting and chaos since Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in 2011.

“It’s time, it’s time for all Libyans on all sides to act, so neither Russian or any other country can interfere in Libya’s sovereignty for its own gain,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Germany’s ambassador to Libya, Oliver Owcza, met with Haftar and expressed concern over the ongoing military confrontations and their worrying impact on the civilian population.

“I encouraged a constructive resumption of 5+5 talks toward a reliable cease-fire, thereby also addressing structural security concerns,” he said in a tweet.

On Iraq, Pompeo said the government has agreed to a strategic dialogue proposed in April starting from Thursday.

Pompeo said Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, David Hale, will lead the discussion with representatives from the departments of defense, treasury, energy and other agencies along with their Iraqi counterparts, “in keeping with previous dialogues based on our 2008 strategic framework agreement.”

“With new threats on the horizon, including the global coronavirus pandemic, collapsed oil prices and a large budget deficit, it’s imperative that the United States and Iraq meet as strategic partners to plan a way forward for the mutual benefit of each of our two nations,” he said.

Pompeo also spoke with UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday and “discussed steps to end the conflict and advance a negotiated political solution in Libya, the urgent need to renew the Syria humanitarian cross-border mechanism, and the importance of extending the UN arms embargo on Iran,” the state department said in a statement.


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