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Roundup: U.S. looks for stronger ties with Europe amid mounting disputes

Xinhua,November 29, 2017 Adjust font size:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 (Xinhua) -- The U.S top diplomat pledged on Tuesday to strengthen ties with Europe amid mounting disputes that seem to pull the traditional allies apart.

The United States places "highest importance" on security relationships with Europe, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson in a speech delivered at a think tank in Washington.

"Any attack by any actor on a NATO member-state will trigger Article 5," a clause of mutual defense, said Tillerson at Wilson Center.

Tillerson's remarks came ahead of his Europe tour next week, which is seen as a chance to push ahead the trans-Atlantic relations which had been at the risk of going sour since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

In June, Trump pulled out of the Paris climate treaty, triggering widespread condemnation by its old allies in Europe, including Germany and France.

Their divergence on climate change was just another drag on trans-Atlantic relations on top of Trump's support for Britain's exit from the European Union (EU), and his position on NATO defense expenses.

In his roughly 30-minute speech, Tillerson also asked the European countries to "contribute more to their own defense."

"We once again urge European partners who have not done so already to meet the 2 percent of GDP target for defense spending," the former Exxon Mobil CEO said.

Earlier this year, Trump called the NATO "obsolete" and threatened to "moderate" its commitment to it if NATO partners fail to meet the mandated defense spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

In his remarks, Tillerson also urged its European partners to share the United States' position on the Iran nuclear deal, which has already moved further to ditch the landmark deal.

Trump alleged last month that Iran had committed "multiple violations" of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and threatened to abandon the accord if it was not amended.

"The JCPOA is no longer the only point of U.S. policy toward Iran," Tillerson repeated Trump's rhetoric in the speech.

However, in sharp contrast with Trump's stance, EU leaders reaffirmed in October their commitment to the international accord signed with world powers.

Last week, Iran and the EU started their third round of high-level talks in Tehran, seeking to boost cooperation.

In Tuesday's speech, Tillerson also stressed the importance of enhancing European energy security and beefing up U.S.-EU cooperation in areas of cyber attacks and counterterrorism.

Referring to Brexit, Tillerson urged both the EU and Britain to move this process forward "swiftly and without unnecessary acrimony." Enditem