State Department keeps quiet as Pompeo meets Lavrov in Munich

Source: Politico | February 15, 2020 | David M. Herszenhorn

Russian officials publicize meeting that US side did not mention.

MUNICH — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday in an encounter the American side apparently wanted to keep under wraps.

The State Department made no announcement of the meeting, which took place in Lavrov’s own dedicated meeting room at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where the major annual conference of politicians, policymakers and security experts is held. Pompeo’s aides also did not provide any readout after the meeting ended.

Russian journalists traveling with Lavrov were aware of the meeting in advance, and wrote about it afterward.

Lavrov’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, confirmed the meeting in a Facebook post, which included a photo of Pompeo in a hallway of the hotel, and Lavrov standing in a doorway a few steps behind him.

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Asked about the meeting by POLITICO, a State Department official confirmed that there had been a “pull aside” with Lavrov but gave no further details. The official denied that the State Department asked Russia not to publicize the meeting and said it did not normally issue readouts of “pull asides.”

There was no mention of the meeting in a briefing by a senior administration official about U.S. efforts at the security conference. The official said Pompeo met with Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and that U.S. officials met with Israeli counterparts as well as with a senior EU foreign affairs official, Helga Schmid.

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A Russian journalist traveling with Lavrov said the U.S. side had requested that there be no press conference or joint statements and that photographers not even be invited to take a picture of the two top diplomats shaking hands.

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