G20 Germany: Rex Tillerson Makes First Foreign Trip as Secretary of State
Secretary of state Rex Tillerson is in Germany for a meeting with G20 leaders on his first foreign trip since he took office.
Rex Tillerson is expected to confirm that the US remains committed to NATO, at the gathering of ministers in Bonn.
The secretary of state will also meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a time when US relations with Russia are under the spotlight.
According to officials, Rex Tillerson’s main intention was to listen to his G20 counterparts.
While in Germany, he will participate in a series of sessions on global issues ranging from conflict prevention to developing cooperation with Africa.
However, it is his meeting on February 16 with Sergei Lavrov that will be watched most closely.
Rex Tillerson is expected to seek “pragmatic and constructive cooperation in areas where our interests overlap,” a US official told Reuters.
Counterterrorism is one area that the secretary of state is hoping to “develop some possible avenues for cooperation,” the official said.
Sergei Lavrov is likely to use his time with Rex Tillerson to explore the significance of President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for improved relations with Russia.
However, senior state department officials said that Rex Tillerson would not soften Washington’s position on Russia’s interventions in Ukraine, a crisis which remains unresolved.
They added that he would use the talks to urge the Kremlin to abide by its commitments in the Minsk peace agreement.
Rex Tillerson will also meet the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, with US officials saying he would support a pragmatic Brexit that resulted in a strong Britain, and a strong EU.
The G20 is made up of developed economies and emerging nations including Russia, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil.
The first task for ministers at the gathering in Germany will be to get Rex Tillerson to spell out exactly what Donald Trump’s “America First” means in practice.