Dec 6, 2017, 3:25 PM ET

Tillerson faces pushback in Europe on Jerusalem

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faced stern feedback from some of his European counterparts over the Trump administration’s controversial foreign policies like recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and decertifying the Iran nuclear deal.

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Tillerson told reporters Wednesday at a NATO summit in Brussels that he saw a “very good opportunity” for Middle East peace. But many of his counterparts expressed concern over the U.S.’s position on Israel.

PHOTO: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, speaks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, during a group photo of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Dec. 5, 2017. British Permanent Representative to NATO Sarah MacIntosh is at center. Virginia Mayo/AP
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, speaks with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, during a group photo of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Dec. 5, 2017. British Permanent Representative to NATO Sarah MacIntosh is at center.

The harshest language came from Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu, who before stepping into a bilateral meeting with Tillerson, called the impending decision a “grave mistake.”

Following that meeting, U.K.’s foreign minister Boris Johnson stepped in front of the Secretary of State at a photo-opportunity to tell reporters that the U.S. must present its plan for Middle East peace now if they’re going to move the U.S. embassy in Israel.

The European Union’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini warned on Tuesday that any action to move the capital by the U.S. would “undermine” the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

While standing next to Tillerson at the European Council, Mogherini also openly disagreed with the U.S.’s decision to decertify the Iran Nuclear deal.

"Dismantling an agreement on nuclear issues that is working - as the International Atomic Energy Agency has certified nine times - would not put us in a better position to discuss all the rest on the country," she said.

“We believe that any action that would undermine this effort must absolutely be avoided."

Tillerson dismissed reports that he would soon be ousted from his position by the White House telling reporters, “This is a narrative that keeps coming up every 6 weeks. You all need to get some new sources. I would say your story keeps being wrong.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he isn’t concerned about rumors that Tillerson may not be in the job when they meet again.

"NATO ministers are able to focus on the core tasks of the job we have to do despite any speculation and rumors," Stoltenberg said a press conference, adding that Tillerson has a strong commitment to NATO.

Tillerson arrived at NATO carrying on Trump’s unpopular message that all alliance members must pay their share of defense spending or 2 percent of their GDP. One of his missions was to push European allies to apply trade pressure on China that would incentivize them to contain the situation in North Korea.

Calling Russia’s aggression in Ukraine the “biggest threat to European security,” Tillerson also sought a more aggressive strategy for dealing with Russia.

But he was met at the summit by defiant allies who were already disappointed in the U.S. for pulling out of the Paris Climate accord and failing to certify the Iran deal.

Before arriving at the NATO summit, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel made a sweeping condemnation of Trump’s “America First” policy. Gabriel warned that the U.S. “will never be the same” post-Trump’s presidency, and added that Germany should put its own priorities first when setting foreign policy.

"The US no longer sees the world as a global community, but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage," Gabriel said at the Berlin Foreign Policy Forum on Monday.

Russian aggression in Ukraine will be top of the agenda at Tillerson’s next stop on his European tour at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna on Thursday. He will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the event.

But before touching down in Vienna, he started preparing for his next diplomatic jaunt to Africa, stopping off at a air force base in Germany to receive a briefing from EURCOM and AFRICOM.

Tillerson is planning a trip to Africa in the first quarter of 2018, according to a State Department spokesperson.

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  • Dude1394

    From another commenter showing the ridiculousness of the democrat-media party.

    "Trump: the first Nazi to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state of Israel."

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    Tillerson just has to tell these people that he works for a moron.

  • Just Watching

    The European Union’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini warned on Tuesday that any action to move the capital by the U.S. would “undermine” the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

    Yeah... we wouldn't want to undermine the 70 year old peace process that's been working so well up to now. Now that the Palestinians have been woken up, their ridiculous dream of the Jerusalem trophy is off the table.

  • wilmers13

    Africa has become a lot worse since the existence of Africom in Stuttgart. The Iran deal leaves Iran's handling of domestic issues alone. Tillerson and Trump might like to have more say on internal Iranian matters, that's why they don't like it. Russia is also guarding their domestic policies. I think, Tillerson might use the Christmas break to rethink his position.

  • Wayne Brooks

    This article is about US foreign policy in the middle east and European ministers response to it. But not a single commenter has mentioned the subject. I especially like the one, "Germany should put its own priorities first when setting foreign policy." When did Germany look for anything else. Or another, 'the U.S. would “undermine" the peace process between Israel and Palestine.' When the Palestinian people actually are interested in a solution there will be a treaty, they will stop firing weapons into Israel. They and all the arab states will acknowledge Israel's right to exist. Until that day the US should support the side that respects law and supports a peace process, Israel. Thank You Mr. President.

  • linmarco

    What a mess. Yet there are still those who would follow this man through the bowels of hell.

  • Blossom89

    Don't worry Tillerson, anything that you can accomplish Trump will shoot you in the back and destroy for you..

  • flnycus

    This is worse than having Biff from Back to the Future in charge... is this a dream?!

  • error_does not compute

    It's Ok Rex ... just tell your counterparts that Trumps a moron, they'll get it.

  • Pro-Marx

    This is Trump's economic plan: economic growth fueled by the defense industry dealing with the fallout from his stupid foreign policy decisions.

  • Kassel99

    His buddy in Russia will be happy.

  • Hugh1

    Tired of winning yet? What an idiot! The great deal maker made a complete fool of himself, and us.

  • Alex Ross

    Trump sold Tillerson out like he did the USA. For money.