All smiles: Johnson Smith and Hanna greet Pompeo on arrival

An animated Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as two other observers, including Opposition Spokesperson Lisa Hanna look on.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith and her opposition party counterpart, Lisa Hanna, both greeted United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who arrived in the island earlier this evening (Jan 21).

It was all smiles from the Minister, who prior to Pompeo’s arrival was very quiet; while the Opposition spokesperson, though also displaying a smile, appeared stand-offish as she kept her hands glued to her romper while engaged in a brief conversation with Pompeo, who was still on the tarmac (airport apron).

According to an update released by the ministry on Tuesday, Pompeo, while in Jamaica, will hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and senior cabinet members.

The ministry further revealed that Secretary Pompeo will also deliver a policy speech on the Caribbean region’s critical importance to the US, and the country’s renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, interests and economic prosperity.

Prior to Pompeo’s arrival, several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders had expressed concern about the US officials’ visit which some view as indicative of attempting to divide the 15-member regional grouping. It is a sentiment that is also shared by the Opposition spokesperson who also commented on the noticeable exclusion of some CARICOM members from the talks.

When Pompeo’s visit was announced on January 16, it was described by the ministry as a “commitment of the United States to strengthen its engagement with Jamaica and the wider Caribbean” and not necessarily a visit for exclusive “bilateral talks” as is now being indicated. Some members of CARICOM, including a representative from St Lucia, are said to have arrived on the island to attend the talks.