U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Paris at the start of a a seven-nation trip to Europe and the Middle East.
The tour to France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates comes as Pompeo and much of the Republican party have not accepted President Donald Trump’s election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
Pompeo touched off a wave of criticism on November 10 with comments during a press conference that "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," seemingly undermining U.S. credibility on promoting democracy.
While the top U.S. top diplomat hasn’t accepted the outcome of the election, most of the world, including the leaders of the seven nations Pompeo will visit, have issued congratulations to President-elect Biden.
In a Fox News interview, Pompeo said that such calls to Biden were not objectionable if it was "just saying 'hi.'"
"But make no mistake about it: We have one president, one secretary of state, one national security team at a time."
In Paris, Pompeo will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and other top officials.
The conversations are expected to be difficult, with France in sharp disagreement with the Trump administration on a range of issues -- from climate change and trade to Iran. Le Drian said November 13 that he would raise concerns about reports Trump plans to speed up troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
Pompeo heads after Paris to Istanbul, where his trip has already caused friction with Turkish officials.
He has no planned meetings with top Turkish officials, something the State Department blamed on scheduling issues.
That’s despite the two NATO allies having a host of differences to discuss on issues including Syria, Iran, maritime tensions with Greece and Cyprus, tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and Turkey’s military relationship with Russia.
Instead, Pompeo will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Greek Orthodox Christian leader, to discuss religious freedom.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry in a statement said that the United States should first "look in the mirror" and address racism, hate crimes, and Islamophobia at home.
In Israel, Pompeo will see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been close to Trump and now finds himself faced with a potentially less amenable Biden administration.
The two are expected to discuss a range of issues, including Iran and Israel’s budding diplomatic relations with several Arab states.
But Pompeo’s visit is also expected to draw controversy. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz and news site Axios reported that Pompeo will become the first secretary of state to visit one of Israel's settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and also tour the Golan Heights, whose annexation by Israel was recognized by Trump.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh described the visit to a Jewish settlement as a "dangerous precedent."
Pompeo will then head to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, where Iran is expected to be high on the agenda.
Pompeo's trip will also take him to Georgia, where he is to express U.S. "support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity" and "urge further progress in democratic reforms," according to the State Department.
The visit to Georgia comes as the U.S. partner just went through an election disputed by opposition parties.