US State Secretary plans to meet Russian counterpart in Philippines this weekend

Jerome Frank
August 3, 2017

Most of the money - $60 million - was earmarked for the State Department's Global Engagement Center and has been sitting with the Pentagon, and it will expire if it is not transferred before September 30.

But on Russia, Tillerson strained hardest to point to progress.

Argued that Iran's military must leave Syria for the U.S.to cooperate with Russian Federation on ending the Syrian civil war.

"I told President Putin when I saw him in the Kremlin in March and I've told Foreign Minister Lavrov repeatedly, "The situation's bad, but believe me, it can get worse" - and it just did", Tillerson told reporters.

Differences between Trump, top White House aides and Tillerson and the State Department bubbled to public attention even before a well-publicized spat last month over the Iran deal, which ended with Trump siding with Tillerson while making it clear he wants out of the accord.

Some in Moscow and Washington had hoped relations between the former Cold War foes might improve under U.S. president Donald Trump, who has had warm words for President Vladimir Putin.

At a State Department press briefing on Tuesday, Tillerson conceded State still "had a lot of open slots" but praised career diplomats for stepping up in the interim.

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On Capitol Hill, U.S. senators from both major political parties called on Trump to sign the sanctions bill into law without further delay.

Putin this week ordered the U.S.to dramatically cut its diplomatic presence in Russian Federation, solidifying the conclusion that a Trump-driven detente with Moscow hasn't come to pass.

Tillerson's comments sound at odds with those of Vice President Mike Pence, who said the president is "unified" with Congress.

The bill needs to be signed off by the president before going into effect.

Tillerson will participate in meetings of diplomats of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Manila, and discuss "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maritime security, and counterterrorism", the State Department said.

Tillerson said he understood why Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the U.S.to drastically cut its diplomatic presence in Russia, even though the move was in retaliation for a similar US action past year under President Barack Obama. Tillerson suggested the action was expected, given the domestic pressure on the Russian leader to retaliate for steps Obama took to punish Russia after US intelligence agencies concluded Moscow meddled in the election.

Tillerson quoted Trump telling Lavrov, "We need some good news with Russian Federation", when they met in the Oval Office.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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