U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plans to travel to Ukraine next week as part of a weeklong regional tour that would also include legs in Britain, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan, the State Department said on January 24.
Pompeo is due to fly from London to Kyiv on January 30 for his first visit to Ukraine as the U.S. top diplomat, amid an acrimonious impeachment trial currently under way in the Senate on whether to remove President Donald Trump from office.
A July 25, 2019 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is at the center of the trial. A transcript of the conversation revealed that the U.S. president had urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and his son. Critics say crucial military aid to Kyiv was withheld as leverage.
In Kyiv, Pompeo will meet with Zelenskiy, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystayko, and Defense Minister Andriy Zahorodnyuk to “highlight U.S. support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Ortagus said the state secretary will also meet with religious, civil society, and business community leaders, and attend a wreath-laying ceremony to honor those fallen in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 13,000 people since April 2014.
Pompeo will next head to Minsk on February 1, becoming the highest-level U.S. official to visit Belarus since diplomatic relations with the United States were frayed more than a decade ago.
He will meet with Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei to “underscore the U.S. commitment to a sovereign, independent, stable, and prosperous Belarus, and affirm our desire to normalize our bilateral relations,” Ortagus said.
After the Belarusian capital, Pompeo will travel to Nur-Sultan for talks with Kazakh President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev, his predecessor Nursultan Nazarbaev, and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi aimed at reaffirming “our shared commitment to peace, prosperity, and security in Central Asia,” according to the statement.
On February 2-3 in Tashkent, Pompeo is set to “underscore U.S. support for Uzbekistan’s reforms and the country’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” during talks with President Shavkat Mirziyoev and Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.
While in the Uzbek capital, the state secretary is to attend a meeting with the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to “stress U.S. support for a better connected, more prosperous, and more secure Central Asia.”
Amid growing tensions in the Middle East, Pompeo on January 1 canceled a planned trip to Kyiv, Minsk, Nur-Sultan, and Tashkent that was scheduled to start two days later.