ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed on Tuesday a group of Democratic senators who reportedly met in secret with Iran's foreign minister during a foreign policy conference held over the weekend in Germany.
A delegation of Democratic senators reportedly led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) held a secret powwow with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference, where Pompeo was an official speaker.
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The meeting was not officially sanctioned by the U.S. government and appears to have been held in secret to avoid media scrutiny. State Department officials have been clear that they did not play any role in facilitating the meeting or backing it.
Pompeo, speaking to reporters during a tour through Africa, said that the Democrats who participated in the meeting are aiding and abetting the globe's foremost state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism.
"This guy is designated by the United States," Pompeo said, referring to Zarif's recent addition to official U.S. terrorism lists.
"He's the foreign minister for a country that shot down an airliner and has yet to turn over the black boxes," Pompeo continued, referencing Iran's recent downing of a commercial airliner that killed all of those aboard. "This is the foreign minister of a country that killed an American on December 27. This is the foreign minister of a country that is the world's largest state sponsor of terror and the world's largest sponsor of anti-Semitism."
"If they met," he said of the Democratic senators. "I don't know what they said. I hope they were reinforcing America's foreign policy, not their own."
Sen. Murphy did not respond to a request for comment.
While the details of the meeting have remained unreported—with the senators involved bucking media requests to address the matter—it is likely they met with Zarif to discuss how the landmark nuclear deal can be saved. As the Trump administration tightens the economic noose on Iran through tough sanctions, Iran has responded by ramping up its contested nuclear research. Leading Democrats have repeatedly expressed their willingness to reenter the United States into the deal ever since President Trump scrapped it.
Pompeo is scheduled to continue high-level meetings in Ethiopia through Wednesday, where he will promote U.S. investment and security matters. His ongoing trip has sought to counter concerns that America will pull critical security assistance from African nations currently combating terrorism and other regional security challenges.
From Ethiopia, Pompeo will head to Saudi Arabia for several days of meetings that are likely to focus on Iran.