WASHINGTON (CN) – Mike Pompeo’s week will end with a visit to North Korea where he hopes to improve relations with Pyongyang. But even as the secretary of state prepared for his goodwill mission, he issued a tough statement for another long-time U.S. antagonist: Iran.
At the State Department Wednesday, Pompeo said the U.S. will terminate the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran.
The decision to end the 63-year old accord was, according to Pompeo’s announcement, ”frankly …39 years overdue.”
The agreement was written with the intent of “emphasizing the friendly relations which have long prevailed between [the peoples of the United States and Iran],” the statement said.
It also expressly encouraged mutually beneficial trade and positive economic and consular relations when it was enacted.
The accord survived revolutions in Iran and widespread turmoil, including the hostage taking of over 50 Americans for more than 400 days in the 1970s.
But the recent decision by the Trump administration to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iran nuclear deal - and the increase in U.S. sanctions against Iran that followed, brought a new level of tension the U.S.-Iran relationship.
The U.S. withdrawal from the 1955 agreement comes the same day that the United Nations International Court of Justice unanimously ruled that the U.S. must lift sanctions on humanitarian goods to Iran.
The sanctions on those goods were enforced shortly after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal.
The humanitarian goods include provisions like medical equipment, medicine, food and other agricultural commodities, air plane parts and more.
According to the International Court of Justice Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, the White House’s sanction on those goods may cause “serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”
Pompeo called the international court’s ruling a “meritless case” on Wednesday and one that made a “useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“Iran has attempted to interfere with sovereign rights of the United States to take lawful actions as necessary to protect our national security,” Pompeo said. “Iran is abusing the International Court of Justice for political and propaganda purposes.”
The international court can rule on quarrels between UN member states – and consider those decisions binding – but ultimately, the rulings cannot be appealed and there is no existing mechanism to enforce the orders.
When the White House first began hitting Iran with sanctions this May, the country aired its grievances with the international court, saying the U.S. was acting with “naked economic aggression.”
The sanctions, Tehran claimed, violated the 1955 agreement.
But on Wednesday, Pompeo said the U.S. “has been clear” that existing exceptions for sanctions – which include the provision of humanitarian aid – will continue despite the treaty’s dissolution.
“We will continue to make sure that we are providing humanitarian assistance in a way that delivers for the people we have spoken very clearly about: the Iranian people,” he said.
Coming up, on October 7, Pompeo departs the U.S. for a diplomatic tour through Asia with stops in China and Japan, but he also plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
During a press conference at the State Department on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert did not disclose specific items on the agenda between Pompeo and Un but noted the tete-a-tete would likely focus on limiting North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
Planning for another summit between Kim Jong Un and Trump may also be on the agenda.
Nauert did not confirm plans for the summit but said North Korea’s invitation to Pompeo indicated “forward progress and momentum.”
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