As all eyes turn towards President Donald Trump's first diplomatic trip abroad, questions have surfaced about how he will address human rights during his time in the Middle East.
On Sunday, for example, both Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) criticized the president for failing to publicly address the topic during his time in Saudi Arabia.
Rubio bluntly told CNN’s “State of the Union“ that ”the White House and I have a different approach on the issue of human rights,“ saying that ”it’s in our national security interest to advocate for democracy, freedom and human rights."
They were concerns that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed directly this weekend, telling Fox News that the first step in promoting human rights in the region is to eliminate the shadow of terrorism.
On Sunday, Fox News host Chris Wallace challenged Tillerson on the issue, saying that there's “not a mention of human rights, not a mention of women's rights” in Trump's highly-anticipated address to Saudi Arabia.
The secretary of state replied:
"I think the way you address those human rights issues and women’s rights issues is to improve the conditions in the region. And today, conditions in the region are under a lot of stress because of the threat of terrorism, the threat that Iran poses ...
But the primary reason we’re here today is to confront this threat of terrorism. If we do not defeat Daesh, if we do not defeat these forces of evil, there will be no conditions under which we could even hope to improve the human rights for all the people of the region."
Calling Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia “historic” in terms of the fight to defeat terrorism, Tillerson added:
“There are concrete commitments being made as to how we will work together to defeat Daesh, to defeat terrorism here in the region as well as elsewhere.”
Despite a lack of public commentary on the issue, it has been noted that Trump addressed human rights privately with Saudi officials, with Sen. Rubio saying that “the White House is convinced they can get better results by addressing those issues in private, one-on-one.”
See Tillerson's full interview with Fox News, where he also weighs in on the famous Saudi Arabian sword dance that he and Trump took part in, telling Wallace that “it was not my first sword dance”: