By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the Iranian regime "may have suppressed vital details" about the deadly coronavirus outbreak in that country.
"All nations, including Iran, should tell the truth about the coronavirus and cooperate with international aid organizations,” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference where he stressed that Iran was second only to China in coronavirus deaths as of Monday afternoon.
He said the number one priority is to protect the homeland.
"We’ve imposed prudent travel restrictions and strong travel advisories to slow the spread of the virus to the United States,” he said. "All known American carriers of the coronavirus are in isolation and treatment, and healthy travelers who traveled from high-risk locations – namely, Hubei Province and the Diamond Princess cruise ship – were placed in mandatory quarantine upon return to the United States.”
The State Department continues to do an "enormous amount" of work outside of borders as well to review developments inside and outside of China, and to help countries who have been stricken by the virus, said Pompeo.
Turning to China's expulsion of three Wall Street Journal journalists, Pompeo said: "Had China permitted its own and foreign journalists and medical personnel to speak and investigate freely, Chinese officials and other nations would have been far better prepared to address the challenge."
Coronavirus has sounded global alarms, with China reporting 2,663 deaths from the outbreak, and health experts grappling to find a cure.
Outside mainland China, the coronavirus has spread to more than 25 other countries including the U.S., U.K., Singapore, France, Russia, Spain and India.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak an international health emergency.
- Key of Afghan peace deal: Realism, restraint, respect
Noting that U.S. President Donald Trump's foreign policy in Afghanistan has three principles, including realism, restraint and respect, Pompeo said the restraint stage has been reached with an ongoing seven-day reduction of violence period that began Feb. 22.
"So first we have to be realistic. We’re proud of our gains, but our generals have determined that this war is unlikely to be won militarily without tremendous additional resources," Pompeo said. "All sides are tired of fighting. We’ve arrived at a historic opportunity for peace.
"In 19 years of war, this is the first weeklong break in violence by all sides, if we’re successful in achieving it," he said.
Pompeo said the timeline includes a conditions-based and phased troop withdrawal, and for the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations -- which will be the first time that Afghans representing all sides of the conflict will sit down together.
The U.S. and Taliban had reached an agreement to "reduce violence across Afghanistan," set to be signed Feb. 29.
"Lastly, respect. The Taliban must respect the agreement, specifically regarding their promises of severing ties with terrorists," Pompeo added, saying that the U.S. is not required to leave unless the Taliban demonstrates it is fulfilling its responsibilities.
The agreement that was nearly signed in September sets the timetable for the U.S. exit from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban vows to ensure Afghanistan does not become a hotbed for terrorist groups, and beginning of talks with Ashraf Ghani’s government.
The U.S. has more than 12,000 troops in Afghanistan conducting operations in support of Ghani’s forces, as well as conducting a broader anti-terror mission.