Tillerson cuts short Africa trip citing ‘pressing matters’ in the US


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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cut short by a day his five-nation trip to Africa, citing the need to return to the United States to deal with North Korea and other pressing matters.

“Due to demands in the secretary’s schedule he is returning to the U.S. one day early, after concluding official meetings in Chad and Nigeria,” said Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein.

Tillerson visited Chad on Monday to show support for the country, a key counter-terrorism ally that is angry over its inclusion on the Trump administration’s visa-ban list. In Chad, Tillerson met with President Idriss Deby, with whom he negotiated a major oil contract during his 40-year tenure at Exxon Mobil Corp.

Tillerson, who is the highest-ranking U.S. official to ever visit Chad, will fly to Abuja, Nigeria later Monday.

According to Bloomberg, “A key mission for Tillerson will be to ensure sustained Chadian cooperation, while also easing its displeasure for being included last September on the visa-ban list.”

Chad’s military provides troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions, hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees and is also assisting counter militant groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in neighboring Libya, leaving the country to question its inclusion on the visa-ban list.

Other nations on the visa-ban list included Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Venezuela and North Korea.

As an important U.S. ally, Chad had an issue with being included on the list due to its contributions to U.S. counter-terror efforts. Chad was also confused regarding the policy because of a September statement by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster who said that the country could be removed from the list “maybe in a couple of months.”

The Department of Homeland Security has contended that terrorist groups are active in and around Chad and the country was not doing enough to prevent people who might be security threats from entering the United States.

Bloomberg reported that “The trip overall has been aimed at something similar — assure partners that the Trump administration remains committed to its relationships with African nations, while crises elsewhere — North Korea, the fight against Islamic State — dominate headlines.”

Tillerson’s trip to Africa coincided with two major foreign-policy events: President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and the announcement on Thursday that Trump would meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May.

Tillerson, 65, also became ill while in Kenya, causing him to cancel planned events in Nairobi on Saturday. Goldstein said on Saturday that Tillerson had gone two days without sleep while working on North Korea and other issues.