Tillerson: I Understand Abbas' Concern Over Trump Decisions

U.S. secretary of state reaffirms the Trump administration's commitment to Mideast peace during interview in Kuwait

Amir Tibon
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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Kuwait City, Kuwait, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018Credit: Jon Gambrell/AP
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the United States hopes to see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas resume his contacts with the Trump administration on a possible Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, while on a visit to Kuwait on Tuesday. Tillerson added that he "understands" some of Abbas' concerns about recent decisions made by the administration, but emphasized that the Trump administration remains committed to reaching a peace deal.

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Tillerson gave an interview to Al Hurra TV, a channel supported by the U.S. government, and was asked about Abbas' recent remarks criticizing America's role as mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. Kuwait is one stop on his five-country tour of the Middle East.

"I understand President Abbas, his concern about certain steps and decisions taken by the United States," Tillerson replied. "My message to President Abbas is the United States is still committed to seeing a successful Middle East peace process, and is prepared to assist in that effort going forward. We hope that President Abbas will find his way back to the table."

Tillerson was also asked about this weekend's escalation between Israel, Iran and Syria. He said that "just prior to leaving for my trip to the region, I had a very lengthy telephone conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu because of the strikes, and we had a long discussion around the threats that Israel is confronted with that emanate both from Lebanon due to Lebanese Hezbollah, but also from Syria. We take the threats to Israel seriously and we take a view that Israel has every right to defend itself from those threats."

He added that "we are concerned about Syria not creating instability and opportunities for further threats to Israel, but also to Jordan, to Turkey, to all of its neighbors, and that’s why we will remain in Syria until ISIS is fully defeated and we are certain will not re-emerge. And we will remain engaged in the political solution for Syria, which we think is the long-term means of bringing stability to Syria and restoring Syria’s independent nature."

Tillerson will arrive in Jordan on Wednesday. He is scheduled to visit Lebanon and Turkey later this week before returning to Washington. Tillerson's meetings with regional leaders cover recent developments in Syria and aim to recruit support in the Arab world for the Trump administration's Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.