Pompeo meets with Orthodox spiritual leader in contentious Turkey visit
(Updated with reports on protests in the final paragraph along with the photo)
U.S. State Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday met with the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, in Istanbul as part of a short trip to Turkey, which did not include any meetings with Turkish officials.
Pompeo tweeted pictures of his visit with Bartholomew, which arrives during a seven-country tour by the U.S. official of Europe and the Middle East.
Honored to meet with His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and to visit the Patriarchal Church of St. George today. As leader of the Orthodox world, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a key partner as we continue to champion religious freedom around the globe. pic.twitter.com/1u96nPZwgV— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 17, 2020
The secretary is not scheduled to meet with any Turkish officials during his tour that will also take him to France, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia until Nov. 23.
Pompeo was accompanied by a delegation including his wife Susan Pompeo and the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey David Satterfield, with the U.S. Secretary of State also visiting Istanbul’s St. George's Cathedral, where he lit a candle, TRT news reported.
The U.S. State Department said the top U.S. diplomat was in Turkey to promote “our strong stance on religious freedom around the world.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has criticised Pompeo’s planned meetings in the country as an “extremely inappropriate” intervention.
Pompey also met with the Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell.
It was a pleasure to meet Archbishop Paul Fitzpatrick Russell, the Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan, to discuss how the United States can support interfaith peace efforts in this region. pic.twitter.com/jInbSSeDFs— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 17, 2020
Turkey was the only NATO member country singled out in a U.S. religious freedom report published by a religious freedom watchdog in May.
The annual report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) called on the U.S. State Department to return Turkey on a special watch list for “engaging in or tolerating severe violations of religious freedom,”according to the commission’s annual report.
Pompeo also met with some protests which is organised by ultra-nationalist youth union, TGB.