European Leaders Praise US's Tillerson on International Debut

The lay-offs were carried out by Rex Tillerson's aides as the Secretary of State embarked on his first foreign trip in his new role to Germany.

Tillerson was apparently late to confirm his attendance at the gathering of foreign ministers and diplomats, and the city's hotels were completely booked by the time he did.

France considers the U.S. position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "confused and worrying", its foreign minister said on Thursday, reacting to U.S. President Donald Trump's dropping of the American commitment to a two-state solution. Russia's Sergei Lavrov began: "Mr. Secretary of State, I thank you for this opportunity to have the first contact after you have assumed the office and I would like to congratulate you once again for that".

"Where we do not see eye to eye, the United States will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies", he said. As chief executive of Exxon Mobil, Mr Tillerson brokered an estimated $500bn deal with Russian Federation that was frozen by the 2014 sanctions.

But the Secretary urged Russian Federation to meet the Minsk ceasefire commitments in the region. It's a similar mission to that of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is in Brussels and will attend a security conference in Munich this weekend.

The diplomats also said Tillerson had stressed that Moscow's position to align itself with the Syrian government and to label all rebels as terrorists would make military cooperation between Washington and Moscow complicated. "But our political leaders will engage and try to find common ground".

The US stopped military-to-military relations with Russian Federation following the 2014 sanctions.

Lavrov said the two countries had "plenty of issues" to discuss, many of which had already been raised during a telephone conversation between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on January 28.

Mr Putin on Thursday called for increased intelligence cooperation with the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

"It's absolutely clear that in the area of counter-terrorism all relevant governments and global groups should work together".

At the same time, Trump's envoys have been expressing positions more keeping with previous U.S. policies.

Trump has railed against "criminal" leaks from USA intelligence agencies, some of which apparently showed national security adviser Michael Flynn had had conversations with Russians about sanctions, something he had previously denied.

Meanwhile, senior Democrats have called for an independent inquiry into what links Mr Trump may or may not have to Russian Federation. "In some cases, we are redeploying people to new assignments where they can immediately put their talents to work".

"I think it is entirely right to have a dual track approach".

Meanwhile in Bonn, Mr Lavrov denied that Russian Federation had any involvement in meddling in United States affairs. Lavrov declined to comment on the situation, saying to the press, "You should know we do not interfere in the domestic matters of other countries".

  • Larry Hoffman