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Europeans rip U.S. plans

Tillerson gets cold welcome from EU leaders

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Photographs by AP/VIRGINIA MAYO

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top diplomat, arrive for a news conference Tuesday in Brussels after Tillerson faced a chilly reception at a foreign-policy conference. Mogherini said the EU saw the Trump administration’s possible announcement regarding Jerusalem as a threat to peace in the Middle East.

BRUSSELS -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's reception Tuesday in Brussels was distinctly chilly, as disappointment among European diplomats in President Donald Trump's nationalistic tone and insulting messages on Twitter built into quiet fury on the eve of an expected announcement that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Such a move could infuriate the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem to be their capital in a future Palestinian state.

In a brief public appearance beside Tillerson, Federica Mogherini, the European Union's top diplomat, gave the kind of stone-cold statement of facts that she normally provides when standing beside her Russian counterpart, not the U.S. one.

She made clear that the EU saw the Trump administration's possible announcement on Jerusalem as a threat to peace in the Middle East.

"We believe that any action that would undermine these efforts must absolutely be avoided," she said. "A way must be found through negotiations to resolve the status of Jerusalem as a future capital of both states."

Mogherini also warned the United States not to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, something Trump has said he may do.

"The continued implementation of the Iran nuclear deal is a key strategic priority for European security but also for regional and global security," she said.

Tillerson's spokesman, R.C. Hammond, remarked on the tone of the reception.

"Allies have been very frank today in sharing some of their views," Hammond said.

Mogherini's remarks came just hours after Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of Germany declared at a foreign policy conference in Berlin that relations with the United States "will never be the same" and said the Trump administration increasingly viewed Europe as a "competitor or economic rival" rather than an ally.

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron of France warned Trump in a phone call that recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a bad idea, joining leaders from Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and the Arab League in speaking out publicly against the move.

Trump's nationalistic rhetoric and frequent complaints about what he sees as European freeloading on U.S. military spending has long grated on European leaders. Into this growing rift the Trump administration sent a chief diplomat who could be pushed out within weeks and has little of the president's confidence, according to senior administration officials.

For his part, Tillerson stood beside Mogherini and offered comments in which he reaffirmed "the important role that the European alliance plays in our shared security objectives."

Tillerson spoke at far greater length in a morning visit to the U.S. Embassy in Brussels but spent most of his time describing his departmental reorganization effort, not addressing the growing diplomatic challenges his employees face in Europe and elsewhere.

He admitted that the Trump administration had yet to notch a single major diplomatic victory.

"While we don't have any wins on the board yet, I can tell you we're in much better position to advance America's interests around the world than we were 10 months ago," Tillerson said.

A Section on 12/06/2017

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