Sat, 20 Oct 2018

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged strong U.S. support for the European Union, as he met with officials in Brussels Tuesday.

'The partnership between America and the European Union, I think as everyone knows, is long-standing,' Tillerson said alongside EU's Federica Mogherini. 'It one that is based upon shared values, shared objectives for security and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic, and we remain committed to that.'

The U.S. top diplomat and EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy discussed the Iran nuclear agreement, North Korea's nuclear threat and cooperation on counterterrorism.

'Our shared objectives in terms of defeating ISIS are important, but not just defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but defeating ISIS globally,' Tillerson said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terror group.'And we certainly see the result of ISIS' caliphate and its long reign of terror that they have carried out in Iraq and Syria, which is now coming to an end.'

On the Iran nuclear agreement, the secretary said the United States and European Union continue to hold Tehran compliant with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA , while 'recognizing that Iran is carrying out a number of other destabilizing activities throughout the region.'

'We also know of Iran's destabilizing effect of exporting weapons and militia to Syria, an area of conflict, and ongoing support for Hezbollah, a terrorist organization,' Tillerson said. '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.'

For her part, Mogherini said the EU was willing to work closely with the U.S. 'on the basis of continued implementation.'

'It was decided that the nuclear deal would be purely on the nuclear issue,' she said, adding that it was unwise to dismantle a deal that the U.N. nuclear agency, the IAEA, has repeatedly certified.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies National Security Summit in Washington, Oct. 19, 2017.

Replacement rumors

Tillerson's Europe trip comes just days after U.S. media reported the White House was considering replacing him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo. U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted that Tillerson was not leaving anytime soon, and Tillerson dismissed the reports as 'laughable.'

On Monday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tillerson's job insecurity speculation was not a distraction, saying the trans-Atlantic alliance 'and NATO ministers are able to focus on the core tasks of the job we have to do despite any speculation and rumors.'

Stoltenberg also praised Tillerson's strong personal commitment to the trans-Atlantic bond and to NATO. The secretary of state meets with Stoltenberg later on Tuesday to discuss a range of global security issues.

From Brussels, Tillerson will travel to Vienna for the annual meeting of the OSCE, with the emphasis on arms control and human rights, and the senior State Department official said, a message of support for Ukrainian sovereignty.

A senior administration official said his final stop will be in Paris 'where we have a very special and deep cooperation with the French on a global agenda that encompasses issues on Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, North Korea and Sahel.'

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