Secretary of State Tillerson Calls Saudi King Salman, Applauds Saudi Role in Regional Stability

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Saudi Arabia’s King Salman by phone yesterday, and commended the Kingdom on its role in “promoting stability across the region,” the SPA reports.

Tillerson also “stressed on the importance of working with the Kingdom, developing a comprehensive plan to strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation both military and counter-terrorism efforts, and strengthening economic ties,” the London-based Asharq Alawsat reported.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Secretary of State Tillerson was formerly CEO of ExxonMobil, a company with deep and long-lasting ties with Saudi Arabia. ExxonMobil’s predecessor, Standard Oil, helped launch the oil industry in Saudi Arabia and co-owned the country’s first major export pipeline.

Before ascending to the role of CEO in 2006, Tillerson served as head of the company’s international division, and also served as ExxonMobil’s country manager for Yemen in the early ’90s, where he honed his negotiating skills with the Yemeni government over energy deals that would shape the country’s economy for years to come. Politico notes that in Tillerson, President Trump sees “a slick, tough Texan seen by friends and foes alike as a talented practitioner of the art of the deal.”

“Interviews with close associates and a review of his record at Exxon reveal a pragmatist whose views put him firmly in the American foreign policy mainstream. And what Tillerson, 64, may lack in traditional diplomatic training, supporters say, he’s made up in years of wrangling recalcitrant and corrupt foreign regimes,” Politico writes.

During his confirmation hearing, when asked by Senator Marco Rubio about human rights in Saudi Arabia, Tillerson refused to label Saudi Arabia a human rights violator and said that efforts to apply such labels to certain regimes were short-sighted. Tillerson said that Saudi Arabia was making progress on human rights issues, and added, “what I wouldn’t want it to do is take some kind of precipitous action that suddenly causes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to interrupt that.”