Pompeo pulls Greenland meeting with Danish foreign minister

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday put off a visit to Greenland, citing pressing business in Washington.

Pompeo pulls Greenland meeting with Danish foreign minister
Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard / Ritzau Scanpix

Pompeo was scheduled to visit Greenland's capital Nuuk and to make a second stop to see New York Air National Guard troops deployed to assist climate research, part of a push to show the US commitment to the Arctic.

Greenland is an autonomous territory of Denmark, whose foreign minister, Anders Samuelsen, had been set to meet Pompeo in Nuuk.

But State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Pompeo was postponing the trip “due to a need for the secretary to be in Washington” on Thursday.

“We look forward to rescheduling the secretary's visit at a time convenient for Greenland, Denmark and the United States,” she said.

A senior diplomat in Greenland, Kenneth Høegh, earlier told AFP that Pompeo's visit was being postponed. Greenland's government in a statement said it was informed that “urgent matters” required Pompeo in Washington.

The cancellation came two days after Pompeo also ditched a trip to Germany to fly to Iraq amid soaring tensions with Iran.

The trip comes amid a spike in friction with Iran, after the United States announced the deployment of an aircraft carrier strike group and nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to counter what it alleged were imminent Iranian threats.

Iran on Wednesday said it would no longer abide by some limits under a 2015 nuclear accord, a year to the date after President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal and instead slapped sweeping sanctions.

On Tuesday, instead of flying to Germany, Pompeo made an unannounced detour to Iraq — where Iran has a major influence — and said that the country's leaders had promised to protect US interests.

Pompeo's tour of Greenland was meant to have closed out a four-day visit to Europe that started in Finland, where he attended a meeting of the eight members of the Arctic Council.

While sceptical about fighting climate change, Pompeo noted that new sea routes were opening in the usually frozen Arctic — and challenged the role of China in seeking interests in the region.

Pompeo spent Wednesday in London where he discussed the tensions with Iran and delivered remarks on religious freedom, one of his key priorities.

READ ALSO: 'Catastrophic': Denmark reacts to US break with Europe over Iran deal

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Greenland passes law banning uranium mining

Greenland's parliament voted Tuesday to ban uranium mining and exploration in the vast Danish territory, following through on a campaign promise from the ruling left-wing party which was elected earlier this year.

Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement.
Greenland's parliament voted on November 9th to ban uranium mining. Prime Minister Mute Egede, pictured, said earlier this month he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement. File photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The Inuit Ataqatigiit (IA) party won snap elections in April that were originally triggered by divisions over a controversial uranium and rare earth mining project.

The IA won 12 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic national assembly, beating its rival Siumut, a social democratic party that had dominated politics in the island territory since it gained autonomy in 1979.

On Tuesday 12 MPs in the national assembly voted to ban uranium mining, with nine voting against. 

The IA had campaigned against exploiting the Kuannersuit deposit, which is located in fjords in the island’s south and is considered one of the world’s richest in uranium and rare earth minerals.

The project, led by the Chinese-owned Australian group Greenland Minerals, has not yet been officially abandoned.

But French group Orano announced in May it would not launch exploration despite holding permits to do so.

The massive natural riches of the vast island — measuring two million square kilometres, making it larger than Mexico — have been eyed by many, but few projects have been approved.

The island is currently home to two mines: one for anorthosite, whose deposits contain titanium, and one for rubies and pink sapphires.

While Greenland’s local government is not opposed to all mining activities, it has also banned all oil exploration over concerns for the climate and the environment.

Earlier this month Prime Minister Mute Egede said he wanted to join the Paris climate agreement, which Greenland is one of the few countries not to have ratified.

READ ALSO: Greenland seabed scoured for marine diamonds