FOREIGN POLICY

Tillerson: Trump wants me to fix US relationship with Russia amid turmoil

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that the U.S. relationship with Russia is at a low point, and he was directed by President Trump to rebuild the relationship and not allow the political turmoil over possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign to impede his task.

Tillerson, who was in Wellington, New Zealand, said he couldn't comment on the details of the Russia investigations or whether they could bring down the administration because "I have no direct knowledge."

"He's been quite clear with me to proceed at whatever pace and in the areas I think we might make progress," Tillerson said. "I really am not involved in any of these other issues."

Tillerson -- who, as CEO of Exxon Mobile, was once granted a friendship honor from Russian President Vladimir Putin -- has had at times a rocky start in his relationship with Russia. The most friction so far has been how to best approach Syria.

In May, shortly after a U.S. airstrike in Syria, Tillerson said Russia has been either “complicit or simply incompetent” in its 2013 commitment to prevent Syria from obtaining chemical weapons.

Tillerson went on to address Trump's provocative tweets, including those in which he criticized London's mayor after three assailants killed seven people and wounded dozens in the London Bridge area over the weekend.

"The president has his own unique ways of communicating with the American people, and the world," Tillerson said. "And it's served him pretty well, and I don't intend to advise him on how to communicate. That's up to him."

Tillerson said he was pleased by reports that some British imams were refusing to offer funeral prayers for the London attackers.

"That is what has to be done," he said. "Only the Muslim faith can handle this."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.