Tillerson warns against steps that cut off talks with Russia

Marsha Scott
June 15, 2017

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tillerson stopped short of registering his opposition to a new package of Russian Federation sanctions the GOP-led Senate is considering in retaliation for Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression in other parts of the world, including Syria and Ukraine.

It took years of diplomacy with Russian Federation and China to achieve consensus among major powers to impose the sanctions on Iran and a similar result with the North seems unlikely given Beijing's reluctance to destabilize its neighbors.

"We are working in a couple of areas in particular to see if we can establish that there is a basis for reestablishing some type of working relationship with the Russian government that is in our interest", Tillerson said. "Then we will move and try to engage others elsewhere and keep the effort under way with the resources we have, but call on others to do more, as well", Tillerson said.

Israel on Wednesday poured cold water on the US Secretary of State's announcement that the Palestinian Authority has agreed to stop providing financial support to the families of convicted terrorists. "It effectively withdraws American leadership from around the world".

In all, the Trump proposal cuts about 32 percent from US diplomacy and aid budgets, or almost $19 billion.

When Graham was done, the leading Democrat on the committee, Vermont Sen. I am very thankful that you're serving as secretary of state. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the top Senate Democrat. But he acknowledged some countries have had support withdrawn, which he characterized as "some of the hard choices we've mentioned in terms of where we put our dollars".

"If they think that we're somehow willing to relax the sanctions on them before they've complied with the Minsk framework and left Crimea, I think it just will encourage Putin to continue his bullying", Engel said.

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"We have briefed committee staff on the department's plans to improve efficiencies", a State Department official told FP in response to Cardin's remarks.

"That work we expect to complete over the coming weeks, (to) review it with the president, make a final policy decision", he told lawmakers.

The Trump administration has not taken either side on the matter, although Trump campaigned for president on a promise to move the United States embassy in Israel there.

"The president raised it, and I had a bilateral meeting with [Abbas] later and I told him - you absolutely have to stop this", Tillerson said. "I think we're really leaning in to U.S. leadership" to make clear "we're going to continue in this leadership role, but you, our allies, must do your share".

Tillerson said it was possible that the Ukrainian government could come to an agreement with Moscow outside the structure of the 2015 accord.

"We're all going to carry this burden".

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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