Moscow: United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the US does not want war with Iran, but vowed to keep pressurising Tehran. “We fundamentally do not see a war with Iran,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Sochi.
Pompeo’s visit to Moscow comes at a time of heightened fears of a clash between the US and Iran, a Russian ally. A Kremlin spokesman, before the meetings on Tuesday, accused the US of applying a “maximum pressure policy” against Iran, a reference to a harsh US sanctions regime and military deployments to the Middle East.
“President Vladimir Putin has said repeatedly that he could not understand the maximum pressure policy,” Peskov told journalists on Tuesday morning.
Tensions with Iran are the latest crisis troubling US-Russia relationship, which was severely disrupted by accusations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential elections.
In remarks on Monday, Lavrov had blamed the US for provoking the crisis with Iran by exiting the nuclear deal negotiated under former US president Barack Obama. Iran began a partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal last week.
“We will attempt to clarify with him how the Americans are planning to come out of the crisis they created with their unilateral decisions,” Lavrov said. “We count on a frank talk with my American counterpart.”
Before Tuesday’s meeting, he called on Pompeo to help reduce the “mutual bitterness” between the two sides, which “increases the risks for our and your security and is a cause for concern for the whole international community”.
‘A credible threat’
The US has sent an aircraft carrier and a bomber taskforce to the Middle East in response to what officials called “a credible threat” by Iranian regime forces. Saudi Arabia said several of its oil tankers had been damaged in mysterious “sabotage attacks” after US warnings that Iran could target shipping in the region.
On Tuesday morning, the Spanish government said it had decided to temporarily withdraw a warship that had formed part of the US-led taskforce. A spokesman for the defence ministry confirmed that the frigate Mendez Nu-ez had been pulled from the fleet, describing the move as a “temporary separation”.
Spanish media reported that the decision had been taken to stop Spain being dragged into a conflict between the US and Iran.
The Spanish government played down its decision to withdrawn a warship that had formed part of the US-led taskforce near the Arabian Gulf, insisting it had been taken on practical rather than political grounds.