PRIME MINISTER HARIRI: I welcome Secretary Tillerson to Lebanon and thank him for the excellent discussion we had earlier. His visit is a clear testimony of the United States commitment to Lebanon’s political and economic stability and the security of my country. By far the largest donor to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the United States of America is a key strategic partner in countering and fighting terrorism of all kinds. I thank Secretary Tillerson for his country’s support and faith in our security institutions. The U.S. has demonstrated that investing in Lebanon yields quick and fruitful results.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, thank you as well so much, Prime Minister Hariri, for the warm welcome to Beirut. I was told by my staff when I arrived, I think it’s been a little more than four years since the last visit of a secretary of state, and so I couldn’t be more pleased to be here to represent the United States.
QUESTION: Good afternoon. Secretary Tillerson, if President Trump pulls out of the nuclear deal by the May deadline as he has said, critics say that would make it even easier for Iran to spread its influence in places like Lebanon and could alienate European allies whom you need in this region to counter that threat. What happens if the U.S. pulls out?
And to both of you, how serious is the oil and gas maritime dispute with Israel? And Secretary Tillerson, did you ask the Lebanese to yield part of the disputed waters to Israel in order to settle this dispute? Thank you.
SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, with respect to the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear agreement, as the President has indicated, he would like to see the defects in that agreement addressed along with Iran’s other malign activities in the region. As such, we have been engaged with our European partners, the other signatories to the JCPOA, for some time now to chart a way forward to address these particular flaws. We’ve had very fruitful meetings with the Europeans. We’re not through with that work yet and so I don’t want to conclude or suggest any conclusion to a decision to exit the agreement. It is important that these areas be addressed, in particular the intercontinental ballistic missile program that Iran continues to carry out, as well as their export of weapons and foreign fighters that is destabilizing other countries in the region.