This Week at State: April 14, 2017

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This Week at State: April 14, 2017

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week DipNote will recap the latest U.S. Department of State highlights spanning a wide range of global issues, events, and initiatives in one blog post.

Here are the highlights from This Week at State:

Secretary Tillerson Discussed U.S. Strategy in Syria Following Military Airstrike

 On April 9, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson appeared on ABC’s This Week and CBS’s  Face the Nation to discuss the situation in Syria.  In his appearances, Secretary Tillerson emphasized, “The President was very clear in his message to the American people that this strike was related solely to the most recent horrific use of chemical weapons against women, children, and, as the President said, even small babies. The strike was a message to Bashar al-Assad that your multiple violations of your agreements at the UN, your agreements under the chemical weapons charter back in 2013, that those would not go without a response in the future.  And we are asking Russia to fulfill its commitment, and we are asking and calling on Bashar al-Assad to cease the use of these weapons.  Other than that, there is no change to our military posture.”

United States Condemned Terrorist Attacks in Egypt

On Palm Sunday, suspected suicide bombings at Coptic Christian churches in two Egyptian cities killed at least 44 people and injured more than 100 others. President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi of Egypt on April 9 to convey his deepest condolences to the families and friends who lost loved ones in the heinous terrorist attacks.  The State Department released a statement condemning the attacks and affirming the United States’ continued support of Egypt’s security and stability in its efforts to defeat terrorism.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the barbaric attacks on Christian places of worship in Tanta and Alexandria that killed dozens of innocent people and injured many more on this holy day of Palm Sunday. We express our condolences to the families and friends of the victims and wish a quick recovery for all those injured.

 - Press Statement by Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner, April 9, 2017

Secretary Tillerson Addressed International Challenges at G-7 Foreign Ministerial Meeting

On April 10-11, Secretary Tillerson attended the G-7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lucca, Italy. Secretary Tillerson joined the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the High Representative of the European Union in a series of meetings to discuss the crises in Iraq and Syria, as well as concerns involving Ukraine, Libya, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The leaders also addressed transnational challenges of defeating ISIS, cyber security, and seeking greater peace and prosperity in the Middle East and Africa.

Following the ministerial, the Group of Nations released a joint communique outlining several issues covered in their sessions to advance global security. The joint statement noted that the G-7 stands united to face the most pressing international challenges and is determined to coordinate its efforts in “promoting the rules-based international order, tackling terrorism and violent extremism, promote stability, inclusion and prosperity.”

Secretary Tillerson Visited Moscow to Facilitate Open, Frank Exchange with Russia

Secretary Tillerson traveled to Moscow on April 11-12, as part of an effort to maintain direct lines of communication with senior Russian officials and to ensure U.S. views are clearly conveyed on international issues of mutual interest including Syria, DPRK, and Ukraine. While in Moscow, Secretary Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

 Following his meetings, Secretary Tillerson stated, “We understand that improvement in the long-term relationship will be required if we are to make progress on issues where we have different views. We spoke extensively about Syria, and in some areas we share a common view. Specifically, we both believe in a unified and stable Syria, and we agree we want to deny a safe haven for terrorists who want to attack both of our countries. We agree that North Korea has to be de-nuclearized. We agreed there needs to be more senior-level communication between our two countries, both at a diplomatic and military level.”

U.S. and Partners Put Forward UN Security Council Resolution on Chemical Weapons in Syria

On April 12, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States put forward a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution condemning the April 4 use of chemical weapons in Syria. The draft resolution reiterated the UNSC’s support for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical WeaponsFact-Finding Mission and the Joint Investigative Mechanism. The draft resolution also emphasized the need for full access to relevant sites and recalled Syria’s obligation to cooperate pursuant to resolution 2118 from 2013, in which the UNSC decided that Syria would not use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons. 

The UNSC failed to adopt the draft resolution following a veto by the Russian Federation. In her remarks following the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley urged “Russia to join forces with the overwhelming number of countries that are pushing for a political solution” in Syria. 

U.S. Urges Venezuelan Government to Stop Silencing Opposition Voices

The United States expressed concern over the Venezuelan government’s actions to bar Miranda State Governor Henrique Capriles—a prominent, democratically-elected member of Venezuela’s political opposition and former presidential candidate—from participating in the country’s public life for 15 years. The United States urged President Maduro to reconsider the decision to bar Capriles and ensure Venezuelans can exercise their right to elect their representatives in free and fair elections in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution and consistent with international instruments, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

We note the largest public demonstration of the year on Saturday, as well as protests today, and echo the Venezuelan people’s calls for prompt elections, respect for the constitution and the National Assembly, and freedom for political prisoners. We urge demonstrators to express themselves non-violently and call on government security forces to protect peaceful protest, not prevent it. The freedom of assembly is a universal human right which the Venezuelan authorities must respect. - Press Statement by Acting Spokesperson Mark Toner, April 9, 2017

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