Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’

US Urges China to Use Oil Leverage on North Korea

September 14, 2017

LONDON — The Latest on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s trip to London (all times local):

6:05 p.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is urging China to use its leverage as North Korea supplier of oil to get the North to “reconsider” its development of nuclear weapons.

The United States has sought an embargo on oil imports to North Korea at the U.N. Security Council in response to North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test to date.

But the U.N. has agreed to weaker measures against the North — although the U.N. is banning ban textile exports, an important source of its revenue for the North.

Tillerson says it was going to be “very difficult” to get China to agree to an oil embargo. Still he’s urging China as a “great country and a world power” to use its leverage as the supplier of virtually all North Korea’s oil.

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10:25 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is holding talks in London with British and French officials on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

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The U.S., Britain and France are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, and the council this week approved new sanctions to punish North Korea’s latest nuclear test explosion.

The officials also intend to discuss the response to Hurricane Irma, which struck the southeastern United States and the Caribbean.

And expect the situation in Libya to come up during talks with representatives from the U.N., Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

It’s Tillerson’s second visit to Britain since taking office in February.

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UK’s May Stressed Importance of Iran Nuclear Deal to Tillerson — Trump Seems Ready To Keep Iran Nuclear Deal — But After North Korea, Will Iran Have Nuclear Weapons?

September 14, 2017

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May stressed the importance of a 2015 international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday during a brief meeting at her London office.

Tillerson is visiting Britain to discuss the relief effort following Hurricane Irma, North Korea’s nuclear test, and to meet foreign ministers from several different countries about breaking the political deadlock in Libya.

Although not officially on the agenda for the trip, the subject of Iran was raised at the meeting between Tillerson, May and Britain’s national security adviser.

“(They) touched on the Iran nuclear deal, the PM underlining its importance in preventing Iran from procuring nuclear weapons,” May’s spokesman told reporters.

U.S. President Donald Trump has previously expressed doubts about the Iran nuclear deal, which is designed to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most Western sanctions.

Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups.

Tillerson has publicly said he disagrees with Trump’s views on the nuclear deal, and that it could be used to advance the United States’ relationship with Iran.

“(Tillerson and May) also discussed North Korea and its continuing destabilizing activities,” May’s spokesman said. “They agreed on the importance of the international community continuing to work together to put pressure on the regime.”

North Korea carried out its sixth and largest nuclear test earlier this month.

Tillerson will meet British foreign minister Boris Johnson and a representative from the French government to discuss Hurricane Irma and North Korea.

The three will then be joined by foreign ministers from Italy, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates to discuss Libya with U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame.

Backed by Western governments, the United Nations is trying to heal a rift between Libya’s rival factions in order to stabilize the country and to tackle militant violence and people-smuggling from Libya’s northern coast.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Alison Williams)

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US set to extend Iran sanctions relief under nuclear deal

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The Associated Press  In this Sept. 12, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration is poised to extend sanctions relief to Iran under the landmark 2015 nuclear deal even as the White House seeks ways to find the Islamic republic is not complying with the agreement. Administration officials say President Donald Trump is likely to extend sanctions waivers first issued by the Obama administration by a Sept. 14, deadline. However, they say Trump remains determined to “decertify” Iranian compliance by an October deadline. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Trump administration is poised to extend sanctions relief to Iran, avoiding imminent action that could implode the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

But the move expected Thursday comes as the White House seeks ways to find that Tehran is not complying with the agreement. President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized the deal, but has yet to pull out of it.

Trump is working against a Thursday deadline to decide whether to extend the sanctions waivers, which were first issued by the Obama administration.

In exchange for Tehran rolling back its nuclear program, the U.S. and other world powers agreed to suspend wide-ranging oil, trade and financial sanctions that had choked the Iranian economy.

Administration officials say Trump is ready to extend the waivers and that no serious alternatives have been presented. But they cautioned that Trump could still change his mind, and they said he remains determined to “decertify” Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal by a separate, mid-October deadline — a finding that would jeopardize further sanctions relief.

The officials were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Both the sanctions relief and the certification deadlines come amid a broader administration review of Iran policy that is likely to lead to the adoption of a harder line, including the imposition of significant new non-nuclear sanctions, when it is completed next month.

The extension of sanctions relief is expected to be accompanied by a strong statement outlining the administration’s oft-stated complaints that Iran is a destabilizing force in the region.

The statement will set the stage for discussions on the future of the agreement with European allies and others during next week’s United Nations General Assembly as well as the internal administration debate over whether Trump should report to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the deal.

The U.N. atomic watchdog said earlier this week that Iran continues to meet its obligations under the accord negotiated among Iran, the U.S., the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. But Iran deal opponents inside and outside the administration argue that Tehran’s full compliance, particularly on allowing inspections at military sites, has not been tested and is not yet proven. They also argue that at the very least Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement with destabilizing behavior such as ballistic missile tests that is not specifically covered by the terms of the nuclear deal.

Trump himself, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, said he is inclined not to certify Iranian compliance after having twice found it compliant at earlier deadlines.

Supporters of the deal, including some nuclear experts and former Obama administration officials involved in negotiating the agreement, have made the case that decertification would be counter to U.S. national security interests because it would provide Iran with a pretext to claim Washington is in breach of the deal and undermine American credibility in future international negotiations.

Under U.S. law, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days whether Iran is meeting its commitments to the agreement. If the president does not certify compliance, Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to re-impose sanctions that were lifted under the agreement.

The next certification deadline is Oct. 15.

Officials familiar with the administration debate say Trump is weighing several options, only one of which would certify that Iran is abiding by the deal. The others call for decertification but differ on the next steps, ranging from walking away from the agreement and immediately re-imposing sanctions to remaining a party to the deal while trying to strengthen it through congressional action and supplemental accords.

The certification option, presented earlier this week by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, would find Iran to be in compliance in line with the IAEA conclusion. Yet it would also make clear that the deal is flawed and must be fixed if it is to be preserved, according to the officials.

It would maintain sanctions relief but say that if the flaws in the deal are not addressed by January, Iran should be decertified on the grounds that the accord is no longer in U.S. national security interests. The fixes, involving the extension of now time-limited restrictions on Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, would be negotiated with the other parties to the agreement.

The most well-known of the decertification options was presented publicly last week by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, which would declare Iran to be in violation of the deal, maintain sanctions relief, and leave it to Congress to determine the next steps. Haley also suggested that because Iran has continued its ballistic missile program in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolution that enshrined the nuclear deal, it could be held in breach.

A third option would decertify Iran on national security grounds under U.S. legislation but not immediately walk away from the deal. It would instead have Trump issue a new executive order setting out a timeline for the agreement to be amended or supplemented with bans or further limitations on uranium enrichment and ballistic missile testing, according to the officials.

Another option being floated is to decertify Iran and threaten to restore nuclear sanctions on Iran at any point as well as so-called “secondary sanctions” that could cut off European and other banks and businesses that do business with Iran from the U.S. financial system.

Barcelona van attacker may still be alive, on the run: police

August 19, 2017

By Andrés GonzálezAngus Berwick and Carlos Ruano

Reuters

The driver of the van that plowed into crowds in Barcelona, killing 13 people, may still be alive and at large, Spanish police said on Friday, denying earlier media reports that he had been shot dead in a Catalan seaside resort.

Josep Lluis Trapero, police chief in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia, said he could not confirm the driver was one of five men killed.

A woman, center, holds a banner that reads “Today I sing for voices you dared to silence – We are not afraid” as people observe a minute of silence in memory of the terrorist attacks victims in Las Ramblas, Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, joined by King Felipe of Spain, second from right, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, third from right, and and Catalonia regional President Carles Puigdemont, right, on the front row. Spanish police on Friday shot and killed five people carrying bomb belts who were connected to the Barcelona van attack that killed at least 13, as the manhunt intensified for the perpetrators of Europe’s latest rampage claimed by the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

“It is still a possibility but, unlike four hours ago, it is losing weight,” he told regional TV.

The driver abandoned the van and fled on Thursday after speeding along a section of Las Ramblas, the most famous boulevard in Barcelona, leaving a trail of dead and injured among the crowds of tourists and local residents thronging the street.

(For a graphic on Barcelona crash, click tmsnrt.rs/2fOJ9Sm)

It was the latest of a string of attacks across Europe in the past 13 months in which militants have used vehicles as weapons – a crude but deadly tactic that is near-impossible to prevent and has now killed nearly 130 people in France, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Spain.

A man touches a newspaper displaying a photograph of the aftermath of the terror attack in Las Ramblas, in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. A white van jumped up onto a sidewalk and sped down a pedestrian zone Thursday in Barcelona’s historic Las Ramblas district, swerving from side to side as it plowed into tourists and residents. Police said 13 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in what they called a terror attack. Manu Fernandez AP Photo

Suspected jihadists have been behind the previous attacks. Islamic State said the perpetrators of the latest one had been responding to its call to target countries involved in a U.S.-led coalition against the Sunni militant group.

Hours after the van rampage, police shot dead five people in the Catalan resort of Cambrils, 120 km (75 miles) down the coast from Barcelona, after they drove their car at pedestrians and police officers.

The five assailants had an ax and knives in their car and wore fake explosive belts, police said. A single police officer shot four of the men, Trapero said.

A Spanish woman was killed in the Cambrils incident, while several other civilians and a police officer were injured.

Trapero had earlier said the investigation was focusing on a house in Alcanar, southwest of Barcelona, which was razed by an explosion shortly before midnight on Wednesday.

Police believe the house was being used to plan one or several large-scale attacks in Barcelona, possibly using a large number of butane gas canisters stored there.

However, the apparently accidental explosion at the house forced the conspirators to scale down their plans and to hurriedly carry out more “rudimentary” attacks, Trapero said.

FOUR ARRESTS

Police have arrested four people in connection with the attacks – three Moroccans and a citizen of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, Trapero said. They were aged between 21 and 34, and none had a history of terrorism-related activities.

Another three people have been identified but are still at large. Spanish media said two of them may have been killed by the blast in Alcanar while one man of Moroccan origin was still sought by the police.

Police in France are looking for the driver of a white Renault Kangoo van that may have been used by people involved in the Barcelona attack, a French police source told Reuters.

WORST SINCE 2004

It was the deadliest attack in Spain since March 2004, when Islamist militants placed bombs on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people.

Of 126 people injured in Barcelona and Cambrils, 65 were still in hospital and 17 were in a critical condition. The dead and injured came from 34 countries, ranging from France and Germany to Pakistan and the Philippines.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said an American citizen was confirmed dead, and Spanish media said several children were killed.

As Spain began three days of mourning, people returned to Las Ramblas, laying flowers and lighting candles in memory of the victims. Rajoy and Spain’s King Felipe visited Barcelona’s main square nearby to observe a minute’s silence.

Defiant crowds later chanted “I am not afraid” in Catalan.

Foreign leaders voiced condemnation and sympathy, including French President Emmanuel Macron, whose nation has suffered some of Europe’s deadliest recent attacks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking after media reports that some Germans were among those killed, said Islamist terrorism “can never defeat us” and vowed to press ahead with campaigning for a general election in Germany in September.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco sent his condolences to Spain.

U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking by phone with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday, pledged the full support of the United States in investigating the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

In a message to the cardinal of Barcelona, Pope Francis said the attack was “an act of blind violence that is a grave offense to the Creator”.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the attack showed the European Union’s system of migrant relocation was wrong. “It is dangerous. Europe should wake up,” he said. “We are dealing here with a clash of civilisations.”

Additional reporting by Julien Toyer, Sarah White, Andres Gonzalez, Silvio Castellanos and Kylie MacLellan; Writing by Adrian Croft and Julien Toyer; Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Lisa Shumaker

Tillerson: Trump Tough Talk Aims to Send Message to North Korea

August 9, 2017

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday that President Donald Trump was trying to send a strong message to North Korea when he said it would face “fire and fury” if it threatened the United States.

Speaking to reporters before landing in Guam, a U.S.-held Pacific island that Pyongyang threatened to strike, Tillerson said North Korea’s rhetoric had ratcheted up in the face of international opposition to its nuclear program.

“So I think the president, what the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Analysis: US, allies slow Beijing’s South China Sea momentum

August 8, 2017
 August 8 at 8:14 AM
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MANILA, Philippines — With the rise of a friendly leader in the Philippines, China has been spared a vocal adversary in the disputed South China Sea. In the process, it has gained momentum despite last year’s ruling by an arbitration tribunal that invalidated its expansive claims in the disputed waters.The rapprochement between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, defused a tense standoff between the Asian neighbors last year at the disputed Scarborough Shoal, where China allowed Filipinos back to fish in October as years of thorny relations began to brighten.As President Donald Trump succeeded Barack Obama, who had challenged China’s assertive advances in the disputed sea, U.S. allies wondered if Trump would press America’s role as a regional counterbalance to the Asian powerhouse.

An annual summit of Asia-Pacific nations hosted by the Philippines over the weekend, however, delivered a reality check to Beijing.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Australian and Japanese counterparts on the sidelines of the meetings in Manila of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN. After their meeting, they issued a joint statement that blasted aggressive actions in the contested offshore territories — without, of course, naming Beijing directly, in line with diplomatic practice.

Nevertheless, China quickly voiced its irritation.

Its top diplomat said that while his country and the 10-nation ASEAN bloc “all fully recognized that the situation in the South China Sea is showing signs of changes and things are moving toward a positive direction,” some countries outside the region “are not seeing the positive changes” and are holding onto a mindset that “still stays in the past.”

After the Philippines, ASEAN’s leader this year, hosted the first of three major summits of the bloc in April, Duterte issued a traditional chairman’s statement that dropped mention of contentious issues, including Beijing’s island constructions in disputed reefs that China has lobbied to be struck out of such high-profile communiques. For China, it was seen as a diplomatic coup.

Closeted in their annual gathering in Manila over the weekend, however, ASEAN foreign ministers wrangled over the tone and wordings to depict the territorial rifts involving China and five other governments in their joint statement, which unlike the chairman’s statement is a negotiated document.

A draft of the ASEAN ministerial statement seen by The Associated Press before it was finalized and made public provided a glimpse of the closed-door intramurals, with Vietnam insisting on stronger language against China’s increasingly assertive actions in the busy waters.

Vietnamese diplomats, for example, insisted on mentioning concern over “extended construction” in the contested waters. Cambodia, a Chinese ally, deferred a vote on the inclusion of worries over militarization.

The Philippines was one of the countries that opposed mention of land reclamation and militarization in the communique, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano acknowledged in a news conference late Tuesday. China, he said, threatened to end future talks aimed at resolving conflicts if the arbitration ruling was mentioned in the statement.

“We won’t make any progress,” Cayetano said. “China already said if you talk about the arbitration award there is no talks.”

The protracted quibblings delayed the statement’s release, two Southeast Asian diplomats told the AP. When it was issued a day later, the joint ministerial statement — surprisingly — mentioned land reclamation and militarization and, to Beijing’s certain dismay, carried a vague reference to the arbitration ruling: “full respect for diplomatic and legal process.”

Wang played down mention of the issues, including land reclamation, that critics have used to refer to China’s massive island constructions in the South China Sea.

The next battle is over a proposed “code of conduct,” which aims to stymie aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, including new construction and military fortifications. China concluded talks with ASEAN for a negotiating framework for the nonaggression code, a baby step both sides hailed as a milestone.

Most ASEAN states, including the Philippines, back a legally binding code. China wants otherwise and opposes mention of the contentious issues, including arbitration and a conflict-resolution arrangement, given its preference to solve the conflicts through one-on-one negotiation with its smaller rival claimants. With ASEAN unable to do anything unless it acquiesces to China’s wishes, it relented to reach a consensus. Proponents of the rule of law were dismayed.

The agreed framework “is a lowest-common-denominator effort. It lacks teeth because China has opposed making it legally binding and refused to include a dispute settlement mechanism,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“With ASEAN itself divided and China’s sway over individual ASEAN members growing,” Glaser said, “this is an unsurprising even if disappointing development.”

Wang announced at the Manila meetings that China would be ready to start negotiations for the maritime code when its leader travels to the Philippines and joins ASEAN heads of state in November.

But first, he said, in a shot at the United States, the situation has to be stable and free of “major disruption from outside parties.”

The United States, Australia and Japan immediately weighed in, urging China and ASEAN “to ensure that the code of conduct be finalized in a timely manner, and that it be legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law.”

“Outside parties like the U.S. will do what they think is needed to promote peace and stability in the region,” Glaser said. “If China opposes those actions, so be it.”

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Drama at ASEAN: Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (at left in blue) is the only one brave enough to challenge China at the ASEAN conference in the Philippines, August 5, 2017. At right, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano tries to write language that Vietnam can agree to. POOL photo

Image result for Wang Yi, Philippines, asean, photos

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, left, poses with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi for a photo prior to their bilateral meeting in the sideline of the 50th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and its Dialogue Partners. Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 in suburban Pasay city, south Manila, Philippines. Bolstered by new U.N. sanctions, the United States and North Korea’s neighbors are joining in a fresh attempt to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs, in a global campaign cheered on by U.S. President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China chose to ignore international law.

Australia, Japan, U.S. call for South China Sea code to be legally binding

August 7, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 7, 2017 / 4:29 AM

MANILA (Reuters) – Australia, Japan and the United States on Monday urged Southeast Asian nations and China to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draft will be legally binding.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China should establish a set of rules that were “legally binding, meaningful, effective, and consistent with international law,” the foreign ministers of the three countries said in a statement following a meeting in Manila.

They also urged China and the Philippines to abide by last year’s international arbitration ruling on the South China Sea.

Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

US, Australia, Japan Want Coercive Acts at Sea to Be Stopped

August 7, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The U.S., Australian and Japanese foreign ministers have called for a halt on land reclamations and military actions in the South China Sea and compliance with an arbitration ruling that invalidated China’s vast claims to the disputed waters.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Japan’s new top diplomat, Taro Kono, also called on their Southeast Asian counterparts Monday to rapidly negotiate a legally binding maritime code with China aimed at preventing an escalation of conflicts in one of the world’s busiest waterways.

Their remarks, which are aimed at taming aggression in the disputed sea, are considerably stronger than a joint statement of concern issued by their counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc whose economies depend heavily on China.

U.S., Russia Must ‘Deal With’ Conflict, Tillerson Says

August 7, 2017

Secretary of state says U.S. will respond to expulsion of diplomats by Sept. 1

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, second from right, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, second from right, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Sunday. PHOTO: US DEPARTMENT OF STATE HANDOUT/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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Updated Aug. 7, 2017 5:09 a.m. ET

MANILA—U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russia’s foreign minister that the U.S. would respond to that country’s recent expulsion of American diplomats by Sept. 1 and that the nations must confront the distrust created by Moscow’s meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

Mr. Tillerson, speaking with journalists Monday at an Asian regional security conference in the Philippines, said that he told his Russian counterpart in a meeting a day earlier that he wanted Russia to “understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between…the American people and the Russian people.”

He told Russia that “We simply have to find some way to deal with that,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Mr. Tillerson and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov got together Sunday for an hour in a much-anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the conference following a spell of increasing acrimony over sanctions against Russia adopted by the U.S. Congress and reluctantly signed into law by President Donald Trump.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the meeting began with Mr. Lavrov explaining the reasoning behind Russia’s decision to expel U.S. diplomats. The decision came “after a long wait for the U.S. not to go down the path of confrontation. But, unfortunately, Russophobic members of Congress prevented that from happening,” the ministry said.

The ministers discussed a range of global issues, including cybersecurity, North Korea, Syria and Ukraine, the ministry said.

The sanctions were intended to punish Russia after the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Moscow had sought to interfere in the election, which Mr. Trump won. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by saying the U.S. would have to cut 755 diplomats and staff in the country by September.

Mr. Tillerson said Monday that he asked Mr. Lavrov several clarifying questions about that move, and promised a U.S. response by Sept. 1.

Mr. Trump, who has said that relations between the powers are at “an all-time low,” has publicly questioned the intelligence findings on the election and dismissed investigations by Congress and a Justice Department special prosecutor into the matter. Russia has denied meddling in the election.

Mr. Tillerson said Mr. Lavrov indicated “some willingness” to resolve tensions over Ukraine. The countries have been in conflict since 2014, when Moscow annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and Russian-backed separatists started a war in the eastern part of the country.

After the territory grab, the U.S. and the European Union imposed sanctions on Mosow, which Russia has tried unsuccessfully to have lifted. Mr. Trump, who has spoken favorably of the Russian leader, has called for the two countries to make peace.

Mr. Tillerson said the administration viewed the relationship with Russia with pragmatism.

“We want to work with them on areas that are of serious national security interest to us while at the same time having this extraordinary issue of mistrust that divides us,” Mr. Tillerson said. “That’s just what we in the diplomatic part of our relationship are required to do.”

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Write to Ben Otto at ben.otto@wsj.com

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https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-russia-must-deal-with-conflict-tillerson-says-1502093045

Tillerson says can settle problems with Russia, avoid damaging ties

August 7, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 6, 2017 / 11:15 PM

MANILA (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday said the United States wants to work with Russia and it was pointless to cut off ties over their disagreements.

Discussing a meeting he held on Sunday with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Tillerson told reporters that Russia had indicated “some willingness” to talk and find ways to move forward on the thorny issue of the Ukraine.

He said he saw U.S.-Russia relations pragmatically and believed problems could be addressed, and stressed to Lavrov that Russia needed to understand that meddling in elections was a very serious issue.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Michael Perry

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Rex Tillerson meets for ‘lengthy’ talks with Russia’s Sergey Lavrov amid diplomatic crisis

Russia has removed some 750 American diplomats from their positions

By Emily Shugerman New York

The Independent

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he has engaged in “lengthy” talks with the US Secretary of State, and feels the US is ready to continue dialogue with Russia.

Mr Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila. It was the first conversation between the two men since the US imposed sanctions on Russia last week.

Mr Lavrov said Mr Tillerson was chiefly interested in the reduction of some 750 American diplomatic positions in Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the move was a response to the US sanctions, and to former President Barack Obama’s expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US earlier this year.

“I decided that it is time for us to show that we will not leave anything unanswered,” Mr Putin said in a Russian state media interview.

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There has been confusion, however, over whether the US diplomats would be expelled from Russia, or simply removed from their positions.

“We provided an explanation,” Mr Lavrov said, but did not disclose details.

The US Congress overwhelmingly voted to imposed sanctions on Russia in retaliation for the country’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Three US intelligence agencies have accused Moscow of releasing damaging information on Hillary Clinton and spreading false reports via social media in an attempt to bolster Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Federal investigators are also looking into whether Mr Trump’s campaign colluded with the Russian government in this effort.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

Mr Trump signed his country’s sanctions into law begrudgingly last week, under intense pressure from legislators. In a statement, Mr Trump called the sanctions “seriously flawed,” and said he would only sign the bill for the sake of national unity.

The President, who has repeatedly pushed for better relations with Moscow, wrote: “We hope there will be cooperation between our two countries on major global issues so that these sanctions will no longer be necessary.”

Later, Mr Trump declared US relations with Russia were at an “all-time low”.

Russia “fully shares” Trump’s view that relations are in dangerous condition after sanctions law passed, Kremlin spokesman told press today.

Mr Lavrov, recalling his discussions with Mr Tillerson, said he felt that the Americans “need to keep the dialogue open,” and added: “There’s no alternative to that.”

Mr Tillerson did not comment on the discussions.’

Mr Lavrov said the two men also discussed sending special representative Kurt Volker, the US envoy to Ukraine, on a visit to Moscow. Mr Volker travelled to Ukraine last month to assess the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists. The conflict is seen as a major obstacle to improved US-Russia relations in the US.

Mr Lavrov did not specify when Mr Volker would visit.

Mr Tillerson and Mr Lavrov also reportedly discussed the nuclear situation in North Korea, and how the US and Russia could withstand attacks.

They agreed that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Under Secretary Thomas A Shannon would continue the discussion.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rex-tillerson-sergey-lavrov-russia-lengthy-talks-sanctions-association-of-southeast-asian-nations-a7880031.html

US Says Aircraft to Help Philippines Fight Pro-IS Militants

August 7, 2017

MANILA, Philippines — The United States has been providing the Philippines with surveillance capabilities, training, information and aircraft to help it fight a months-long siege of a southern city by pro-Islamic State group militants, the top U.S. diplomat said Monday as he prepared to meet the country’s polarizing president.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Manila for a regional gathering, said the equipment includes a few Cessna aircraft and a few drones. He said they’ll help the Philippines battle “an enemy that fights in a way that most people have never had to deal with.”

“We think they are beginning to get that situation under control,” Tillerson told reporters. “But the real challenge is going to come with once they have the fighting brought to an end how to deal with the conditions on the ground to ensure it does not re-emerge.”

Human rights groups have questioned President Donald Trump’s willingness to engage with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been roundly criticized for a bloody war on illegal drugs that has killed thousands of suspects. But Tillerson argued there’s no contradiction presented by the U.S. decision to help his country fight the militants, whose insurgency in the Philippines has stoked global fears about the Islamic State group exporting violence into Southeast Asia and beyond.

“I see no conflict — no conflict at all in our helping them with that situation and our views of the human rights concerns we have with respect to how they carry out their counter narcotics activities,” Tillerson said.

Ahead of the meeting, the U.S. said Tillerson indeed would discuss with Duterte human rights along with all other relevant issues. Duterte’s presidential spokesman, Ernesto Bella, said Monday that the topic would include discuss global terrorism threats, economic cooperation and security in Marawi, the city that has been under militant siege for more than two months.

“We also welcome the opportunity to address concerns such as human rights if and when raised,” Bella said in a statement. “We have always included this issue in our discussions and engagements with foreign governments, particularly Western democracies.”

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.

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