Rex Tillerson has been sworn-in as the new US Secretary of State. The former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil took oath before President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
Tillerson’s appointment was confirmed by the Senate in a 56-43 vote.
“Though you inherit enormous challenges in the Middle East and around the world, I do believe we can achieve peace and stability in these very, very troubled times,” Trump said at the swearing-in ceremony in the White House’s Oval Office.
At the ceremony, Trump praised the former oil executive’s “diplomatic skills”, and said it was time to bring a “clear-eyed focus to foreign affairs, to take a fresh look at the world around us, and to seek new solutions grounded in very ancient truths.”
“These truths include the fact that nations have a right to protect to their interests, that all people have a right to freely pursue their own destiny, and that all of us are better off when we act in concert and not in conflict. There’s rarely been conflict like we have in the world today — very sad,” Trump said.
On his part, Tillerson thanked Trump for giving him the opportunity.
64-year-old Tillerson’s confirmation as the top US diplomat was welcomed by the White House and the Republican party but opposed by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate, who raked up his ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin.
Former President George W Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former secretaries of state James A Baker and Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and former Senator Sam Nunn had endorsed Tillerson’s nomination.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren said Tillerson’s “extensive and longstanding ties with Russia” meant that the US couldn’t trust him to be a strong advocate for their interests.
“Secretary Tillerson’s close personal and business ties with President Putin give me no confidence that he would be an effective force in America’s dealings with Russia,” said Democratic Senator Dick Durbin.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, chief strategist Steve Bannon, chief of staff Reince Priebus and Press Secretary, Sean Spicer were also present at the swearing-in ceremony.
(With inputs from agencies)