By Robin Emmott and Humeyra Pamuk
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cancelled his Europe trip at the last minute on Tuesday after Luxembourg’s foreign minister and top European Union officials declined to meet him, European diplomats and other people familiar with the matter said.
The extraordinary snub to Washington came days after the storming of U.S. Capitol by thousands of supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, an unprecedented attack on American democracy that stunned many world leaders and U.S. allies.
Pompeo, a close ally of Trump, had sought to meet Jean Asselborn in Luxembourg, a small but wealthy NATO ally, before meeting EU leaders and the bloc’s top diplomat in Brussels, three people close to the planning told Reuters.
Pompeo had originally planned to go to Luxembourg, but that leg of the trip was scrapped, one diplomatic source said, after officials there showed reluctance to grant him appointments. The Brussels leg was still on until the last minute.
But Pompeo’s final visit schedule in Brussels was not going to involve any meetings with the EU or any public events at NATO. A third diplomatic source said allies were “embarrassed” by Pompeo after the violence in Washington last week.
Luxembourg’s foreign ministry confirmed the previously planned stop there was now cancelled, but declined to give further details. The EU declined to comment.
Appalled by the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results of the Nov. 3 U.S. election, Asselborn had called Trump a “criminal” and a “political pyromaniac” on RTL Radio the next day.
The U.S. State Department, in a statement, attributed the cancellation to transition work before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, even if until recently Pompeo had been reluctant to unequivocally recognise Biden’s win. The State Department declined further comment on European officials’ rejection of meetings with Pompeo.
In Brussels, Pompeo was due to have a private dinner with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday evening at Stoltenberg’s private residence, before meeting Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, whose country is a NATO ally.
The cold shoulder was a contrast with Pompeo’s previous visits to Brussels, which is home to NATO and EU headquarters, over the past three years, where he has given key-note speeches on U.S. policy and met the EU’s chief executive, even as Europe balked at Trump’s foreign policy.