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Pool report #14 - gaggle
Carol Lee • Wall Street Journal
May 24, 2017: 04:41 PM


Here's the first half of the gaggle:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Gaggle

May 24, 2017

He said he's having a great time on the trip. He said POTUS's meeting with the pope went longer than expected. He said he didn't get a full readout of the meeting but he knows they had "pretty extensive conversations around extreme terrorist threats and extremism, radicalization of young people. That's one of the reasons the meeting went long. "They got into quite a good conversation about it."

He said their meeting with the Vatican's secretary of state was a fulsome. He said they discussed a range of issues.

The meeting with the president of Italy was "rather short" partly because the president was running a little behind. The meeting with the Italian prime minister was mostly about the G7.

In Brussels, the president will have a meeting with the new president of France, then will go over to the new NATO headquarters.

Q: What are you hoping to get out of NATO?

"As the president has said, he really wants participating NATO members to step up and fully meet their obligations of the burden sharing. 2% of GDP was a target they all agreed to. I think you can expect the president to be very tough on them, saying 'Look the US is spending 4%. We're doing a lot. The American people are doing a lot for your security for our joint security. You need to make sure you're doing your share for your own security as well. So I think that's going to be the core of his message to NATO."

Q: Do you believe NATO should join the ISIS coalition?

"NATO joining the ISIS coalition, we do think that would be a really important step for them to take. They've been an observer. But they've become more and more engaged in the actual fight to defeat ISIS. I think Secretary Stoltenberg feels that would be an important step for them to take. There are a couple of countries that are still thinking it over. I've had meetings actually with one of those. I think they're going to support NATO joining and becoming a" member of the ISIS fight.

Q: Expect that to happen at this NATO meeting?

"That'll be up to the Secretary General as to how he puts that on the agenda."

Q: Has the president made a decision on Afghanistan troop levels?

"The Afghan policy review is still a work in progress. We have not completed the Afghan policy review. There's still a number of elements of it that we have yet to develop. And so we're - it's not imminent. It's probably a couple of weeks away at least before we're going to be ready to present something to the president."

Q: Did climate change come up in the meeting with the pope or the cardinal secretary of state?

"I don't know in the meeting with the pope but it did come up with Cardinal Parolin. We did have a good exchange on the climate change issue."

"The cardinal was expressing their view that they think ti's an important issue. I think they were encouraging continued participation in the Paris accord. But we had a good exchange the difficulty of balancing addressing climate change, responses to climate change, and ensuring that you still have a thriving economy and you can still offer people jobs so they can feed their families and have a prosperous economy. And that's a difficult balancing act to take, and so I think we had a good exchange there, and we look forward to having further talks with them on climate policy."

Q: Did immigration come up?

"Immigration itself did not come up. Migration has come up because of the real challenge that Italy in particular faces with migration out of North Africa."

Q: How did the president respond to the cardinal encouraging him to stick with the Paris agreement?

"The president indicated we're still thinking about that, that he hasn't made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told Prime Minister Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip. It's an opportunity to hear from people. We're developing our own recommendation on that. So it'll be something that will probably be decided after we get home."

He said he didn't know what POTUS was referring to when he told the pope he'd remember what he said.

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