Tillerson: No daylight between the President and I

"I have yet to have a bilateral, one-on-one, a poolside conversation with a single counterpart in any country: in Europe, Middle East, even South-East Asia, that has not said to me: please, address your relationship with Russian Federation, it has to be improved", Tillerson said on Tuesday during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Foreign Operations.

"I want the country to know I think this budget request is, in many ways, radical and reckless", the committee's Republican chairman, South Carolina Sen.

Tillerson also told United States lawmakers that Washington needs more flexibility to "turn up the heat when we need to, but also to ensure that we have the ability to maintain a constructive dialogue" with Moscow.

The measure is to be attached as an amendment (identified as the Corker amendment) to Iran sanctions legislation that passed a Senate procedural vote 92-7 last week.

Before this amendment emergence, there were three Senate bills attempting to either strengthen or reinforce existing sanctions against Russian Federation.

President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meet in Bethlehem, May 23.

The punitive measures in the legislation are focused on various areas, including the Russian intelligence and defense sectors, parts of its energy sector, and its metals, mining and railways economy.

House and Senate committees are investigating Russia's meddling and potential links to the Trump campaign.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Trump administration "is committed to existing sanctions against Russia" and will keep them in place "until Moscow fully honors its commitments to resolve the crisis in Ukraine".

Tillerson's comments marked a shift from the stance he took at a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation foreign ministers in Brussels in March, when he said the USA wouldn't ease sanctions on Russian Federation unless it met its commitments under the Minsk deal. "Sanctions on Russian Federation will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them", Ms. Nauert said then.

The batch of sanctions would be added to a bill imposing penalties on Iran that the Senate is now debating.

The leaders of the Senate Banking and Foreign Relations committees announced late Monday that they'd reached an agreement on the sanctions package after intensive negotiations. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is conducting a separate probe.

The package would also require a congressional review if a president attempts to ease or end current penalties.

"I haven't heard much from Mr Tillerson, and what I've heard from him hasn't satisfied my concerns", Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.

"This amendment also takes appropriate steps to ensure that current sanctions can not be unilaterally unwound by this administration", Shaheen said. Ties have been strained by differences over Syria, Ukraine and allegations, denied by Moscow, of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Moscow denies any such activity, which Trump has dismissed as sour grapes by the Democrats he defeated.

Senators from both the Republican and Democratic Senators parties agreed, making statements and posing questions critical of the Trump budget.



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