Rex Tillerson defends strained 'special relationship' on United Kingdom visit

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 22, 2018

Iran will top the agenda for U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as he heads to Europe next week for meetings with allies, a U.S. official said on January 19.

President Donald Trump may have rejected Britain's offer to roll out the red carpet at the new U.S. embassy next month, while simultaneously mocking the building and taking aim at Barack Obama.

At a press conference, Mr Tillerson said he treasured his relationship with Mr Johnson.

"Finally, the Secretary will travel to Warsaw on January 26, where he will meet with senior Polish officials to discuss a range of issues in the strong U.S. -Poland bilateral relationship, including global challenges, regional security, and economic prosperity", she added.

Johnson described the relationship as "absolutely fundamental" to Britain's economy.

Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to express support for the Iran nuclear deal that the White House now opposes during an informal meeting later today.

He said a working group had been set up to look at "how we might fix those through some type of another side agreement perhaps, or a mechanism to address the concerns that we have".

Later, Tillerson went further and told reporters that a team of U.S. officials was travelling to Europe to "meet with counterparts, so we'll see what we can get done".

At a regular briefing of journalists on Monday, May's official spokesman said he expected the prime minister to tell Tillerson the United Kingdom was "firmly committed" to the Iran nuclear deal and "also to working with our allies to counter Iran's destabilizing regional activity".

Tillerson was greeted by U.S. Ambassador Woody Johnson as workmen finished planting shrubs in the grounds of the new embassy.

Trump said he was unhappy at the cost and location of the new embassy, a futuristic cuboid building surrounded by a moat.

Earlier this month, Trump said he had cancelled plans to visit the London embassy in February because it cost too much and was in a less desirable location than the old embassy.

"Wanted me to cut ribbon - NO!"

But his decision came after a series of rows and after it became clear the visit would be met with mass protests.

Mr Tillerson also visited the relocated USA embassy.

The embassy opened its doors to the public last week.

The American flag was this month removed from Grosvenor Square, where the United States embassy has been based since 1938. "We think we can do that together", he said. "We'll do it when the time is right".

The fortress-like building was to be heralded by Trump and May as a signal of UK-US relations.

From the Oval Office, Trump waxed lyrical about how the move was wrong and the embassy was "bad", and incorrectly insisted the move was because of the previous president.

May is due to meet again with Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos late this week, but the plans could be thrown into disarray by the USA shutdown.

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