US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said relations between the US and Russia are at their lowest point in decades. Russia has been accused of interfering with the 2016 US presidential election.
In an interview on American politics talk show "Meet the Press," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday there was no way to "reset" relations between the US and Russia.
US-Russia relations have soured in recent years since Russia's annexation of Crimea and Moscow's support of the Syrian government in the ongoing civil war, both of which the US opposed. Russia has also been accused of interfering with the 2016 US presidential election. Tillerson experienced the cold relations firsthand in a tough meeting with his Russian counterpart last month.
"You cannot reset. You cannot erase the past. You cannot start with a clean slate," said Tillerson. "We're starting with the slate we have, and all the problems we have are in that slate."
Tillerson said during the interview that relations between the US and Russia were at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War "with a very low level of trust."
"It is not healthy for the world. It's certainly not healthy for us, for the American people, our national security interest and otherwise, for this relationship to remain at this low level," said Tillerson. "Whether we can improve it or not remains to be seen."
Tillerson added that he has received intelligence that points to Russia meddling with the 2016 US presidential election.
"I don't think there's any question that the Russians were playing around in our electoral processes," said Tillerson, but he was not sure about what effect it might have had.
Russia has denied the accusation that it influenced last year's US election to benefit President Donald Trump.
Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO who worked on oil deals with Russia, was previously awarded the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Order of Friendship is one of the highest honors Russia can give to a foreign national.
Moving embassy in Israel?
During the interview, Tillerson was also pressed on potentially moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump promised to move the embassy during his campaign, but has backed off his pledge since taking office.
"The president is being very careful to understand how such a decision would impact the peace process," said Tillerson.
Previous US presidents have waived a US law that requires the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem. The current waiver, signed by former US President Barack Obama, expires on June 1. Trump is expected to sign a renewal of the waiver before it expires.
Jerusalem is a contentious issue in the Middle East. Israel captured East Jerusalem - claimed by Palestinians for the capital of a future independent state - from Jordan in 1967 and annexed it. The land grab has not been recognized on the international stage.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that moving the embassy would help bring peace.
"Moving the American embassy to Jerusalem would not only not harm the peace process, rather the opposite. It would advance it by amending a historic wrong and by shattering the Palestinian fantasy that Jerusalem isn't the capital of Israel," said Netanyahu in a statement.
Palestinian authorities have yet to react to the statement.
kbd/cmk (AFP, AP)