U.S. State Department confirms Pompeo will only meet with religious leaders in Turkey

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not meet any Turkish officials during his stop in Istanbul, senior State Department officials confirmed during a phone call with reporters on Friday morning.

Pompeo’s travel includes seven countries, including France, Turkey, Georgia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. The secretary will have official meetings in all six of the countries, but none have been scheduled in Turkey. Instead, Pompeo will meet with the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.  According to the phone briefing, Pompeo will also meet with the apostolic nuncio to Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell, and tour the Rustem Pasha Mosque. 

The senior official stated that Pompeo's visit to Turkey would focus on discussing "religious issues ... promoting the unalienable human right of religious freedom, and fighting religious persecution." Pompeo will also meet with U.S. diplomatic staff.

During the call, senior Trump official said that the Secretary would "have a very tight schedule in Istanbul," and added that the U.S. believes "senior Turkish officials also have their own travel schedule."

Pompeo and Andrew Brunson, the American pastor detained for two years in Turkey on espionage and terror charges, are members of the same evangelical Presbyterian denomination. Pompeo is known to be a religious person and his views have not been very favourable towards Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or his government, since before coming to the State Department.