US Secretary of State Pompeo and his delegation meet with French Foreign Minister Le Drian and his officials at the Elysee Palace in Paris (photo from Secretary Pompeo's Twitter)

US Secretary of State Pompeo Discussed Karabakh with French Foreign Minister Le Drian

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ISTANBUL – At a November 16 US State Department press briefing in Istanbul, a State Department official reported on what was discussed concerning Nagorno Karabakh between French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo earlier that day in Paris. At the same press conference, it was announced that a “scheduling issue” prevented Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from meeting with Pompeo during the latter’s visit to Istanbul, where he did meet with the Greek Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Pompeo is on a seven-country tour, which some in the media speculate is an attempt to burnish his legacy.

In an interview to the French newspaper Le Figaro, Pompeo declared that during his same Paris visit, “France’s president Emmanuel Macron and I spent a lot of time discussing the recent actions of Turkey and we agreed that they have been very aggressive,” referring to Turkish support of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as well as military actions in Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. “Europe and the United States must work together to convince Erdoğan that such actions are not in the interest of his people,” he continued.

An excerpt from the official State Department transcript of the Istanbul press conference follows. The speaker was only identified as “Senior State Department Official One.”

“Foreign Minister Le Drian today in Paris.  They talked broadly about counterterrorism and ongoing work there.  The foreign minister noted recent successes that the French have had in the Sahel and that they could not have done without the support of the U.S., highlighted that this is a great example of where we have made such strides in the broad global counterterrorism effort. Obviously, the French with a particular emphasis on the Sahel and the real progress there.

They talked about Nagorno-Karabakh extensively.  As two co-chairs, they shared the same view that we are – we remain committed to our role as co-chairs in the Minsk Group process, that that’s where it is, recognizing the actions that Russia took which has led to a ceasefire that’s actually held now for about a week, but also acknowledging that there were still a lot of questions that needed clarity from the Russians as to the parameters of that agreement, and that included the role of the Turks.

And so more to be learned from that. They both noted that the Russians have invited the co-chairs to Moscow for more clarity, and as you probably have seen in the wires, there have been phone calls between and among the co-chairs. Foreign Minister Le Drian noted that he had spoken to Lavrov, who acknowledged that they were trying to take action to stop what was really an emergency humanitarian situation, but there do remain questions to be discussed about that.

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