This Week at State: August 25, 2017

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This Week at State: August 25, 2017

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week, DipNote recaps 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 Discusses Administration’s New Strategy for South Asia

In a Presidential Address to the nation on August 21, President Trump announced a new integrated strategy for the U.S. approach to South Asia that will require diplomatically engaging Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India to create the conditions for stability in the region.

Speaking to the press on August 22, Secretary Tillerson discussed the President’s new strategy. Secretary Tillerson stated that the United States will adopt conditions-based diplomacy in Afghanistan and South Asia -- conditioned by progress made by the Afghan government.

Secretary Tillerson emphasized that the new strategy will be a regional effort, which also focuses on cooperation with India and Pakistan with the goal of stabilizing Afghanistan as a nation.

In order for the United States to cooperate with Pakistan, however, he stressed the need for Pakistan to change its approach toward terrorist organizations inside its country.

Secretary Tillerson concluded his remarks by highlighting what he called “the essence” of the new strategy: facilitating a reconciliation peace process where the Afghan people determine how they want to govern themselves.

United States Announces New Financial Sanctions on Venezuela

On August 25, President Trump signed an Executive Order imposing strong, new financial sanctions on the dictatorship in Venezuela. Following this action, a statement from the White House Press Secretary outlined actions that represent a fundamental break in Venezuela’s legitimate constitutional order. “The Maduro dictatorship continues to deprive the Venezuelan people of food and medicine, imprison the democratically-elected opposition, and violently suppress freedom of speech. The regime’s decision to create an illegitimate Constituent Assembly -- and most recently to have that body usurp the powers of the democratically-elected National Assembly.”

The White House Press Secretary’s statement underscored, “We will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. The President’s new action prohibits dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company. It also prohibits dealings in certain existing bonds owned by the Venezuelan public sector, as well as dividend payments to the government of Venezuela.” The statement also made clear actions were underway to mitigate harm to the American and Venezuelan people, noting the financial sanctions are “carefully calibrated to deny the Maduro dictatorship a critical source of financing to maintain its illegitimate rule, protect the United States financial system from complicity in Venezuela’s corruption and in the impoverishment of the Venezuelan people, and allow for humanitarian assistance”

United States Commemorates Fourth Anniversary of the Chemical Weapons Attack at Ghouta, Syria

On August 21, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert commemorated the fourth anniversary of the chemical weapons attack at Ghouta, Syria, which left more than 1,400 Syrians dead. Remembering the many lives lost in the attack, Spokesperson Nauert “condemned in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons anywhere, by anyone, under any circumstances.” She also emphasized “the Assad regime must cease its use of chemical weapons, fully declare all of its chemical weapons stockpiles, and cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Fact-Finding Mission and the Joint Investigative Mechanism.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Russia Will Focus on Mission-Essential Functions Following Russia-Imposed Staff Reduction

Following the Russian Government’s decision to impose a cap on U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, the U.S. Mission to Russia released a statement and fact sheet outlining its intent to suspend all nonimmigrant visa operations. Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert elaborated on this action during an August 23 press briefing stating that the U.S. Mission to Russia will focus first on the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad.

Spokesperson Nauert reiterated that the suspension of nonimmigrant visa operations is not in retaliation to the Russian Government’s decision to cap U.S. diplomatic personnel, but rather a result of that reduction in staff.

United States Expresses Deep Concern Over Deterioration of Democratic Climate in Cambodia

During a briefing to members of the press on August 23, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert expressed the United States’ deep concern over the deterioration of the democratic climate in Cambodia following the Cambodian Government’s decision to expel the National Democratic Institute and the reported closure of the Cambodia’s only opposition-aligned radio station.

United States Extends Sympathy for Tragic Flooding and Mudslides in Sierra Leone

In a statement released on August 23 by the Department Spokesperson, the United States reiterated its profound sympathy and extended its condolences to the people of Sierra Leone as they conclude a period of national mourning and begin to heal from the recent tragic flooding and mudslides.

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Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on Medium.com.