Tillerson's remarks come days after Turkey, Iran, Russia meeting

Western countries can offer Turkey more benefits than Russia and Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday.

"Iran and Russia cannot offer the Turkish people the economic and political benefits that membership in the Western community of nations can provide," Tillerson said without specifying what those benefits might look like.

His remarks at the Wilson Center think tank were delivered days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss the conflict in Syria.

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Turkey and Russia and Iran, are the guarantor countries that brokered a cease-fire in Syria last December that led to the Astana talks in Kazakhstan, that ran parallel to the Geneva talks for peace in Syria.

Tillerson said the U.S. and its European allies have partnered to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable through sanctions, and to resolve the Syrian civil conflict.

"In terms to resolve the Syrian civil conflict, our European partners must continue to be strong advocates for the UN-led Geneva process," Tillerson said, adding that this alone can be the basis for rebuilding Syria and implementing a political solution that leaves no role for the Assad regime, his family and his government.

Tillerson also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to mutual defense obligations with NATO members, saying the U.S. would be the first to respond to any attack on a European ally under NATO's Article 5 mutual defense clause.

His comments were intended to calm unease the Trump administration would exit the alliance by demanding European members spend more on their own defenses.

“Our message to Europe is nothing has changed in terms of our commitment to you,” Tillerson said. “The same values that bind us are still there and our security relationships with Europe are ironclad," he added.

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