Yet another secret meeting between the Trump Administration and Putin’s team. We only found out that the meeting occurred because Russia told us. It was in a private room of Lavrov’s. The State Department has given no read out on the meeting.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Friday in an encounter the American side apparently wanted to keep under wraps.
The State Department made no announcement of the meeting, which took place in Lavrov’s own dedicated meeting room at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, where the major annual conference of politicians, policymakers and security experts is held. Pompeo’s aides also did not provide any readout after the meeting ended.
Russian journalists traveling with Lavrov were aware of the meeting in advance, and wrote about it afterward.
Lavrov’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, confirmed the meeting in a Facebook post, which included a photo of Pompeo in a hallway of the hotel, and Lavrov standing in a doorway a few steps behind him.
In the post, Zakharova wrote that Pompeo had said “good luck” to those gathered in the hallway, and cheekily added that those who heard it “gasped.”
“There are few to whom Americans now wish something good,” she wrote.
Asked about the meeting by POLITICO, a State Department official confirmed that there had been a “pull aside” with Lavrov but gave no further details. The official denied that the State Department asked Russia not to publicize the meeting and said it did not normally issue readouts of “pull asides.”
There was no mention of the meeting in a briefing by a senior administration official about U.S. efforts at the security conference. The official said Pompeo met with Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and that U.S. officials met with Israeli counterparts as well as with a senior EU foreign affairs official, Helga Schmid.
It was not immediately clear why the State Department did not disclose the meeting between Pompeo and his Russian counterpart in advance.
A Russian journalist traveling with Lavrov said the U.S. side had requested that there be no press conference or joint statements and that photographers not even be invited to take a picture of the two top diplomats shaking hands.
This is the only photo we have of the encounter and it’s from Russia (in a Facebook post by Lavrov’s spokesperson) – pictures by U.S. photographers were banned by our State Department.
Sergey Lavrov (left) and Mike Pompeo (right) at Munich Security Conference, Feb. 14, 2020. The pair had a private, unannounced meeting in Lavrov’s conference room with no read out or mention of the meeting afterwards by the State Department.