Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgarayin (L) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C) speak during a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, May 18, 2017. JIM WATSON / AFP
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared Thursday that the Middle East and the wider world are awaiting President Donald Trump’s first foreign tour with eager anticipation.
Dismissing concerns that the domestic scandals dogging Trump have hurt his international standing, Tillerson said his trip marked the return of a vital US leadership role.
Governments in the Middle East, Asia and Africa were, he argued, stung by the “neglect and outright dismissal” of their concerns under the previous US administration.
“They’re ready to re-engage with America,” he told reporters. “And that is the purpose of this trip — it is really one of conveying the message that ‘America is back’.”
Under Trump, he said, the United States will once again act as a “facilitator,” uniting and leading friendly nations in the war against “global terrorism.”
“This is not a battle about religions. This is not a battle about cultures. This is a battle about good and evil,” he said, shortly before joining the president for the trip.
“The goodness of people of all faiths will prevail over this evil — and that is the president’s message that he will be taking,” Tillerson continued.
“And he will be convening people globally to confront this face of evil wherever it presents itself in the world, and there’s a great anticipation around that leadership.”
Homeland Security secretary John Kelly, with Tillerson at the State Department for talks with their Mexican opposite numbers, agreed.
“I just actually returned from a trip I took to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and they are so looking forward in that part of the world to the arrival of the president,” he said.
Trump and Tillerson are due in Saudi Arabia this weekend for talks with the king and his government and to attend a conference of dozens of leaders from the Muslim world.
After Riyadh, they are due in Jerusalem for meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, before travelling on to the Vatican and the NATO and G7 summits in Europe.