The US Senate on Wednesday confirmed Rex Tillerson as President Donald Trump's Secretary of State on Wednesday. Tillerson (64), the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was sworn in as top diplomat following Senate’s approval in a 56-43 vote.
The important position of Secretary of State had been lying vacant for nearly two weeks after Tillerson's predecessor John Kerry left the office on January 20 with the
expiry of the term of Barack Obama as the US President. Obama was succeeded by Donald Trump on January 20.
Tillerson's confirmation 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.
"Mr Tillerson led a global enterprise with 75,000 employees, possesses deep relationships around the world, and understands the critical role of US leadership," said Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Former President George W Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former secretaries of state James A Baker and Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, and former Senator Sam Nunn had endorsed Tillerson's nomination.
"Having a world-class manager at the State Department will be a real asset, because it sure does need reform," said Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
As Secretary of State, Tillerson will handle relations with countries including China and Russia and negotiate matters such as climate change and human rights, on behalf of President Trump.
There are reports that Tillerson’s appointment may pave the way for a new round of US-Russia energy talks that could open up investment in oil and gas.
According to former Russian energy minister Igor Yusufov, who had served during Vladimir Putin’s first term and is a former Gazprom board director, Tillerson’s ‘business-like manner’ and America’s changing political climate have created hopes for a revival of bilateral energy summits that last took place more than a decade ago.
Tillerson was involved in US-Russia energy summits in 2002 and 2003, where he met Yusufov, who now runs a USD 2 billion Russian oil and gas fund, Fund Energy.