US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Istanbul on Tuesday, where his schedule includes meetings with religious leaders but not government officials.
Pompeo’s stop in Turkey is focused on promoting religious freedom and fighting religious persecution, which is a key priority for the US administration, officials said.
Pompeo discussed religious issues with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Vartholomaios I, considered the “first among equals” in the Orthodox world, and with the apostolic nuncio to Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell.
Secretary Pompeo also toured the Patriarchal Church of St. George in Istanbul.
After the meeting Pompeo tweeted:
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
Senior State Department officials said the lack of official meetings in Turkey was due to scheduling issues during the brief stop. They said meetings had been sought but Turkish officials were unable to come to Istanbul from the capital of Ankara during the time Pompeo will be there.
The officials noted that the US Secretary of State and his Turkish counterpart plan to see each other in early December at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.
Note that Turkish foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asked his American counterpart to pay also a visit to Ankara. Citing a “tight schedule”, Pompeo rejected the invitation and told Cavusoglu to come to Istanbul with the latter rejecting the idea.