Mike Pompeo in Kuwait to sign 'several deals'

The two countries are expected to seal a number of security, defence and trade agreements

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boards his plane in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 18, 2019. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Kansas City Monday to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. / AFP / POOL / JIM YOUNG
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Kuwait on Tuesday, to sign security, defence and trade agreements.

Speaking to Kuwaiti state-run news agency, Kuna, Deputy Foreign Minister.Khaled Al Jarallah said he hoped talks would contribute to promoting strategic dialogue.

Mr Al Jarallah said the US official’s visit on Tuesday will be a "significant occasion and chance for signing several deals between both friendly countries".

Kuwait is Mr Pompeo’s first stop on a three-country tour to the region, during which he will visit Lebanon and Israel after departing from Kuwait City.

The US official was expected to visit Kuwait in January during a previous regional tour, but had to cut it short due to a family funeral.

In January, Mr Pompeo visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to co-ordinate on Washington's surprise decision to begin withdrawing US troops from Syria.

Mr Al Jarallah said the talks with Mr Pompeo will focus mainly on economic, investment and energy issues. He added that security and military co-operation, especially joint counterterrorism efforts, also feature prominently on the agenda.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a statement that Mr Pompeo will lead the US delegation at the third US-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue, the structure for maintaining the so-called "long-term partnership" between the two countries. The last conversation took place in September 2017, with the next one planned for January, which was delayed and will now take place on Tuesday.

Mr Palladino said there will be many areas of "growing US-Kuwait bilateral co-operation, including defence, counterterrorism, cyber security, strengthening trade and investment ties and education".

"The common thing in each of those places is helping those countries bolster their efforts to push back against the Islamic Republic of Iran," Mr Pompeo told Fox News.

The Trump administration has repeatedly clashed with Tehran, also an arch foe of the Jewish state.

In Beirut, Mr Pompeo will meet with Lebanese leaders to discuss "the political, security, economic, and humanitarian challenges facing Lebanon".

"The secretary's visit will underscore US support for the Lebanese people and Lebanon's legitimate state institutions," the State Department said.

One of the principal topics will be the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist group that works at Iran's behest.

Hezbollah is nonetheless a member of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government, a Washington ally.

In Jerusalem, Mr Pompeo will meet with Israeli officials "to engage on critical regional issues, including countering the Iranian regime's malign influence and reaffirming the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security".

Both Kuwait and Lebanon, along with other Arab countries, have condemned US President Donald Trump's increasingly hostile policies towards Palestine, which Israel continues to illegally occupy.

Earlier, Mr Pompeo backed Israel's "right to protect its citizens," after the Jewish state said it struck dozens of Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to rockets from the Palestinian enclave.

"Once again, Israeli citizens are under attack from terrorists in Gaza, armed and financed by their puppet masters in Tehran," he tweeted.

"We stand by our ally. Israel has the right to protect its citizens."

Mr Pompeo's visit to Jerusalem, which the United States now recognises as the Jewish state's capital – to the great dismay of the Palestinians and the international community – is especially an opportunity to meet with Mr Netanyahu just before Israel's April 9 legislative vote.

He will also participate in a meeting with "Israeli, Cypriot, and Greek leaders to discuss key energy and security issues facing the Eastern Mediterranean region," the statement said.

Mr Pompeo’s Middle East tour runs from March 19 until March 23.