Tillerson: "We're Charting a Renewed Path Toward a Peaceful Middle East"

Posted: May 20, 2017 12:00 PM

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir gave a joint address in Riyadh Saturday announcing a "new strategic partnership" between the two countries that will chart a "renewed path toward a peaceful Middle East."

In agreements signed Saturday, 23 foreign investment export licenses were granted, totaling around "$350 billion of historic direct investment" that will "result in hundreds of thousands of American jobs created in these direct investments in purchases of American goods...equipment, technology."

When Tillerson was nominated for the Secretary of State post, critics claimed he wasn't qualified because he lacked formal diplomatic experience. As CEO of ExxonMobil, though, Tillerson was involved in negotiations and agreements with Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries and has a great deal of knowledge about its leaders. The benefits of that experience were visible today in both the formalizing of the agreement and the tone of Tillerson's address.

The renewed partnership, "based on trust...cooperation, and a shared interest," Tillerson says, "...sends a very strong message to our common enemies, it strengthens the bonds between us...and will guide our path forward. America's security at home is strengthened when Saudi Arabia's security is strong as well."

Though initial reports Saturday focused on the $110 billion defense agreement which is part of the package, the countries are also focusing on economic cooperation and defeating ISIS.

"[We] are embarking on a number of new initiatives to counter violent extremist messaging. We're also going to be pursuing new approaches to disrupting financing of terrorism and advancing defense cooperation.

One of the real hallmarks is the economic cooperation. If you have strong economic engagement between two countries, that really is foundational to a strong security relationship as well.

Al-Jubier appropriated one of President Trump's phrases in his remarks, reiterating his government's desire to eliminate extremism: 

“We will have truly changed our world and we will truly drowned the voices of extremism and we will have drained the swamp from which extremism and terrorism emanates.”

Tillerson said that because of the scope of the agreement, the two countries will be meeting often to review progress on shared goals.

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