Rex Tillerson: US remains committed to EU cooperation
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson says he wants to see Nato-EU cooperation “continuing to evolve and deepen.”
Rex Tillerson and Federica Mogherini | Photo credit: Press Association
Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Tillerson acknowledged the “strong commitment” that the US has to the European alliance and the “important role that the European alliance plays in our shared security objectives.”
His comments come with question marks against the EU/US relationship, particularly on defence. In the recent past, US President Donald Trump branded NATO as “obsolete.”
But, addressing a news conference in Brussels, Tillerson said, “The partnership between America and the EU I think as everyone knows, is longstanding. It is one that’s based upon shared values, shared objectives for security and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, and we remain committed to that.”
He said, “As a Nato member, the United States is very happy and pleased to see Nato-EU cooperation continuing to evolve and deepen since the joint declaration was signed last year, and we’ll certainly have an opportunity for further discussions around that today during the Nato meetings.”
He told reporters, “We know our security is strongest when allies and partners shoulder their fair share of the burden, and that’s why we continue to call on others to increase their defence spending that is towards a shared objective and serves everyone well.”
He was speaking after a meeting with EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels.
The talks covered North Korea and, on this, he said they wanted to send a “message to the regime in North Korea we do not accept the nuclear weapons programme that they have undertaken and we view that it is an important objective for all that there be a denuclearised Korean Peninsula.”
He said, “This economic pressure will continue until either North Korea reverses its course, certainly to encourage talks to get underway to do so.”
On Isis, he said it was “important not just defeating Isis in Iraq and Syria but defeating Isis globally.”
Tillerson said, “We certainly see the results of Isis’ caliphate and this long reign of terror that they have carried out in Iraq and Syria which is now coming to an end.”
He said efforts continued to ensure that Iran is “fully compliant with the terms of the JCPOA but at the same time recognises that Iran is carrying out a number of other destabilising actions in the region.”
He said, “We’ve seen this recently with ballistic missiles being fired from Yemen, which we believe are sourced from Iran; their support for the Houthis, and the destabilising effect that that has in Yemen. We also know of Iran’s destabilising effect of exporting weapons and militia to Syria, an area of conflict, and their ongoing support for Hizballah, a terrorist organisation.
“These issues and activities of Iran cannot be ignored and cannot go unanswered, and we intend to continue to take action to ensure Iran understands this is not acceptable to us, and we look forward to working with European partners in that regard as well.
“It’s a threat, I think, to many of our shared values.”
He said America’s European allies “are also steadfast supporters of the peace process in Syria.”
In a veiled reference to recent strains in EU-US relations, he said, “Like any good relationship, this one requires a lot of attention, and I know the high representative is very committed to this relationship. Her tireless efforts at communication with the United States and the United States government at all levels is important, and we view it the same.”
On Iran, Federica Mogherini said, “I have reaffirmed the European Union view that continued implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is a key strategic priority for European security but also for regional and global security.”
She added, “We have discussed the fact that there are other issues that we should discuss and tackle together, but they are not under the scope of the nuclear agreement and therefore we are willing to address them outside of the agreement itself. The EU is willing to work closely with the United States on these issues on the basis of continued US implementation of the nuclear deal.”
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