Top diplomats from around the globe took measure of new US Secretary of State Tillerson on his first major international trip. Paris said it was worried by a US step back for a two-state solution in the Middle East.
A bilateral meeting between French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the first day of the G20 meeting in Bonn provided little reassurance to France – or other nations – looking for an indication on the Trump administration’s policy towards achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The diplomats’ meeting came just one day after US President Donald Trump said the United States was not absolutely committed to a two-state solution.
After Ayrault met with the recently confirmed US secretary of state, the French foreign minister alluded to an alternative Middle East peace solution offered by Tillerson, though he did not provide details on the discussion.
“I wanted to remind [Tillerson] after the meeting between Donald Trump and Netanyahu that in France’s view there are no other options other than the perspective of a two-state solution and that the other option which Mr. Tillerson brought up was not realistic, fair or balanced,” Ayrault said.
“The United States supports the two-state resolution”
At the same time, another official in the Trump administration continued to send mixed signals on US policy towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said Thursday that the United States “absolutely” supports a two-state solution and anyone who holds contradictory views are in “error.”
“We are thinking out of the box as well, which is: What does it take to bring these two sides to the table? What do we need to have them agree on?” Haley added, before strongly reaffirming US commitment to a two-state solution. “Understand that the United States supports the two-state resolution. That’s never been wavered.”
Europe reacts to Tillerson
The two-state confusion added another layer to Tillerson’s highly anticipated G20 appearance, his first foray onto the global stage since being confirmed and a visit many hoped would provide more concrete direction on US foreign policy.
In comparison to his concern about Mideast policies, Ayrault greeted Tillerson’s measured response to Russia more warmly, saying he was glad to hear that the United States would hold Moscow to its commitments in the Minsk agreement – the ceasefire arrangement aimed at ending the violence in eastern Ukraine.
“I found that there was a bit more precision [on foreign policy] even if I found that on the Israeli-Palestinian dossier it was very confused and worrying,” Ayrault told reporters. “Between the campaign speech, the tweets and what I heard from Tillerson, it’s the start of [foreign policy] clarification.”
The French foreign minister will meet Tillerson in Washington next month to discuss combating the so-called “Islamic State” militant group.
Germany refutes isolationism
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the G20 host and one of Trump’s most outspoken critics, challenged the US president’s “America First” policy in statements made to reporters at the G20.
“Security in the world can’t be achieved without justice and a better life for everybody,” he said.
Gabriel and Tillerson are scheduled to talk face-to-face Thursday evening after a dinner discussion on current world crisis. Their meeting will not be the first – the pair met in Washington in early February where they discussed the transatlantic relationship.
Russia welcomes mutual interests
Much uncertainty remains about the future relationship between Russia and the Untied States, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reacted to his meeting with Tillerson on Friday by underlining Moscow and Washington’s shared interests.
“We cannot solve all problems… but we have a mutual understanding that where our interests coincide, and there are many such spheres, we must move ahead,” Lavrov said in television comments broadcasted in Russia.
Britain: “no doubt” about American partnership
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson expressed his approval of Tillerson’s engagement with Moscow after meeting with his American counterpart in Bonn.
“We don’t want to get into a new Cold War. That’s something London and Washington are completely at one on. But nor do we want Russian behavior to continue as it is. Rex Tillerson has been very clear about that,” Johnson remarked to the BBC.
Johnson also expressed his certainty that Britain had “absolutely no doubt” that the United States will continue to work with its allies on global challenges.
cmb/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)
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- Date 16.02.2017
- Related Subjects Sigmar Gabriel, United Nations (UN), The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), France, Palace of Versailles, Donald Trump, G20 (Group of 20)
- Keywords G20, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump, two-state solution, Sigmar Gabriel, United Nations, UN, Nikki Haley,France, Jean-Marc Ayrault