All eyes on Rex Tiller­son’s de­but at G20 in Ger­many

Putin calls for restor­ing in­tel­li­gence agency links

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son made his diplo­matic de­but at a G20 gath­er­ing in Ger­many on Thurs­day as Rus­sia pressed the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to keep its prom­ises of im­proved re­la­tions.

All eyes were on Tiller­son as he held ini­tial talks with his British, Saudi and UAE coun­ter­parts.

Amer­ica’s top di­plo­mat also met Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov as con­tro­versy raged over Trump’s pos­si­ble ties to the Krem­lin and the shock res­ig­na­tion of his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor Michael Flynn over con­tacts with Rus­sia.

Tiller­son said on Thurs­day that the US was ready to work with Rus­sia if there were com­mon ar­eas for co­op­er­a­tion, but said Moscow had to ad­here to com­mit­ments made over Ukraine.

“As we search for new com­mon ground we ex­pect Rus­sia to hon­our its com­mit­ment to the Minsk agree­ments and work to de-es­ca­late vi­o­lence in Ukraine,” Tiller­son told re­porters af­ter meet­ing with his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Sergei Lavrov.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin mean­while called for restor­ing links be­tween US and Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence agen­cies to face shared prob­lems such as ter­ror­ism.

“Even a sim­ple ex­change of in­for­ma­tion about the chan­nels and sources of ter­ror­ists, about peo­ple im­pli­cated in or sus­pected of ter­ror- ism se­ri­ously raises the ef­fec­tive­ness of our joint ef­forts,” Putin told the coun­try’s FSB in­tel­li­gence agency in a tele­vised speech.

On the cam­paign trail, Trump said he would be open to anti-ter­ror co­op­er­a­tion with Rus­sia.

Separately, US De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis said in Brussels that Wash­ing­ton was not ready “right now” for mil­i­tary col­lab­o­ra­tion with Rus­sia.

Sev­eral US in­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der way into al­leged med­dling by Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in fa­vor of Trump dur­ing last year’s elec­tions, charges the pres­i­dent has an­grily dis­missed as non­sense.

Tiller­son is a for­mer head of US oil gi­ant ExxonMo­bil re­puted for mak­ing ma­jor deals in Rus­sia and hav­ing close enough ties to Putin to merit a top Rus­sian honor.

Host nation Ger­many billed the two-day G20 meet­ing as a chance for the club of lead­ing and de­vel­op­ing economies to dis­cuss how to work to­gether on chal­lenges rang­ing from cli­mate change to con­flicts in Syria, Ukraine and Ye­men.

The Texan could also face ques­tions about the Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, af­ter Trump caused in­ter­na­tional con­ster­na­tion Wed­nes­day by drop­ping Wash­ing­ton’s years-long quest for a two-state so­lu­tion, say­ing he would back a sin­gle state if it led to peace.

Tiller­son is part of a ma­jor US diplo­matic of­fen­sive af­ter Trump caused dis­may in Europe by dub­bing NATO “ob­so­lete,” prais­ing Brexit, claim­ing the EU is doomed and tak­ing a dis­tinctly softer line on Rus­sia.

US De­fence Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis is at­tend­ing the se­cond day of a NATO meet­ing in Brussels on Thurs­day, while Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence was the high­est-rank­ing US of­fi­cial par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Mu­nich Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence.

“There are plenty of un­cer­tain­ties about what they want, what they plan,” a Euro­pean di­plo­mat said about the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. “We hope we’ll get some clar­ity in the weeks to come.”

Ini­tially, Mat­tis had taken a more con­ven­tional line than Pres­i­dent Trump but his blunt words Wed­nes­day came as a shock.

Pence has like­wise used more mod­er­ate lan­guage than his boss but his visit to Europe this week will be closely watched to see if he has a sim­i­larly hard­line mes­sage to de­liver.

The G20 meet­ing is be­ing hosted by Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Sig­mar Gabriel who has been a vo­cal critic of Trump’s pro­tec­tion­ist and na­tion­al­ist lean­ings.

The G20 coun­tries ac­count for some 85 per­cent of the global econ­omy and two thirds of the pop­u­la­tion.

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