Rex Tillerson refused to label Saudi Arabia a human rights violator, instead telling his Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that his efforts to apply such labels to certain regimes were short-sighted.
“When you designate someone or label someone, is that the most effective way to have progress be able to be made in Saudi Arabia or any other country?” Tillerson said to Rubio, who questioned the secretary of state-designate’s on Saudi Arabia’s actions restrictions women’s rights and abuse of prisoners.
Rubio had previously pushed Tillerson to label Russia’s intervention in Syria a “war crime” – an effort Tillerson also rebuffed. After Rubio’s question on Saudi Arabia, Tillerson defended himself by laying out his view that labeling foreign government as human rights violators or worse was undiplomatic and potentially counterproductive.
“There seems to be some misunderstanding that I see the world through a different lens,” he said to Rubio. “I’m also clear-eyed and realistic about dealing in cultures.”
He argued that Saudi Arabia was making progress on human rights, however slowly, and suggested that Rubio’s approach could prevent more progress from occurring.
“What I wouldn’t want it to do is take some kind of precipitous action that suddenly causes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to interrupt that,” he said.