Rex Tillerson to meet Sergei Lavrov at G20

17 Feb 2017 | By NewsBytes Desk

Rex Tillerson will embark on his first overseas trip as the US Secretary of State, to take part in the G20 meeting in Germany.

He will face several challenges, including convincing NATO members that the US remains committed to them, despite Trump's campaign rhetoric.

He will also meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a meeting that will be closely watched.

In context: Can Rex Tillerson reset US foreign policy?

TillersonRex Tillerson: Profile

Rex Tillerson was previously the Chairman and Chief Executive of Exxon Mobil and has never held any political office.

He has extensive links to the global oil and gas industry and reportedly shares close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin and officials from Gazprom.

He handled all of Exxon Mobil's Russian operations since the break up of the Soviet Union.

Obama AdministrationUS-Russia relations at a turning point?

Under the Obama administration, confrontations with Russia became commonplace in US-Russia relations.

The sanctioning of Russian individuals and entities over the Crimean crisis, opposing stances on Syrian intervention were flash points in relations.

The recent breakdown in relations over the alleged hacking of DNC emails have complicated matters more for the new administration.

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Flynn's resignation doesn't help

The recent resignation of US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn over his close ties to Moscow has not been helpful. Flynn had allegedly misled Vice President Mike Pence and other senior officials about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States.

17 Feb 2017Rex Tillerson to meet Sergei Lavrov at G20

Tillerson-LavrovWhat is likely to be on the Tillerson-Lavrov agenda?

US officials said Tillerson would seek "pragmatic and constructive cooperation in areas where our interests overlap."

Counter-terrorism is likely to feature heavily in talks, and it is also likely that Syria would be discussed.

Sources said the US is unlikely to soften its stance on the Ukraine crisis. However, it is not known if the US would ease sanctions on Russian individuals and entities.

NATOReassuring NATO

Reassuring NATO members of continued US commitment to the bloc would be an important point on Tillerson's agenda at the G20.

Trump's anti-NATO rhetoric during his campaign alarmed several NATO members. Defense Secretary Mattis's statements demanding that NATO members allocate more funds toward operations created more friction.

Tillerson's close Russian links have also added to the concerns of NATO and EU members.

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ChallengesOther challenges: China, North Korea

Tillerson will also have to look to resolve problems with China. He has reportedly convinced Trump to recognize the "One China" policy as well.

Given China's economic and political influence in North Korea, it would be in the best interests of the US to tread carefully with Beijing.

China has proven to be instrumental in reigning in Pyongyang's military ambitions.

Tillerson to build on India-US ties

India is one of the few countries where the new administration will seek to build upon existing ties. In their first telephone conversation, Tillerson and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj agreed to "intensify cooperation in various sectors, including defence and security, energy, and economy."

17 Feb 2017Tillerson meets Chinese Foreign Minister

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Germany.

Both sides issued statements saying that issues of mutual concern were discussed at the meeting. Trump's change of track, to recognize the "One China" policy, may have helped ease tensions.

However it is unknown how the Trump administration would tackle the South-China-Sea disputes.