This Week at State: October 27, 2017

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This Week at State: October 27, 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 Travels to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, India, and Switzerland

On October 26, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concluded a seven-day, seven-country trip to the Middle East, South Asia and Europe. During the trip, Secretary Tillerson addressed a wide-range of bilateral and regional issues, from combatting terrorism to building economic ties.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee Meeting, along with Saudi King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 22, 2017.

His stops in Saudi Arabia and Qatar focused regional and bilateral issues, including Iran, the situation in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute, and counterterrorism efforts. In Iraq, Secretary Tillerson emphasized the importance of the continued fight to defeat ISIS. 

In Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, Secretary Tillerson’s meetings with government officials focused on the Administration’s new South Asia strategy.

“As President Trump made clear, achieving peace, stability, and prosperity in Afghanistan requires the involvement of regional partners – most importantly, Pakistan and India. Our goal is to work with our regional partners to root out terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan so that South Asia can enter a period of peace and prosperity. The road to a stable, sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan requires the Afghan Government to advance their commitment to reform.”

– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The Secretary also expanded on strengthening our strategic partnership and collaboration on security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. The Secretary’s visit to India advanced the ambitious agenda laid out by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi during the Prime Minister’s visit to the White House in June.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva on October 26, 2017.

Finally, in Switzerland, Secretary Tillerson met with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to discuss next steps to find a resolution to the conflict in Syria.

“With ISIS on the brink of defeat, we continue our efforts to de-escalate the violence in Syria and support the Geneva process called for under UN Security Council Resolution 2254 to allow the Syrian people to chart a new political course.  As we’ve said many times before, the United States wants a whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government.”

– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

For additional information, transcripts and photos from this trip, visit

United States Issues New Report on Human Rights Abuses in North Korea

On October 26, consistent with the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, the State Department released its third report on DPRK human rights abuses and censorship. The report represents a continuation of U.S. government efforts to name those responsible for or associated with the worst aspects of the North Korean government’s repression, including serious human rights abuses and censorship in the DPRK. 

President Trump Issues Executive Order Resuming Refugee Admissions Program

On October 24, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order resuming the Refugee Admissions Program.

In a statement released on October 25, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the new Executive Order will “protect Americans by addressing weaknesses in our visa program and refugee vetting system.” The Secretary continued, “The Trump Administration remains committed to a comprehensive and compassionate refugee policy, and these new measures will ensure the United States can continue to help some of the world’s most vulnerable people without compromising the safety and security of the American people.”

United States Addresses Human Rights Abuses in Burma

In an October 23 press release, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert outlined U.S. efforts to pursue accountability for the human rights abuses in Rakhine State, Burma. In addition to existing restrictions on military engagement and travel by Burmese military officials, the United States is considering economic options available to target individuals associated with atrocities, including Global Magnitsky targeted sanctions.

In a special briefing on October 24, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia W. Patrick Murphy provided an overview and assessment of U.S. actions to address the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State.

“Our efforts seek to end the violence, support the displaced and their return home, and address the conditions that sparked this colossal population movement. We also want accountability for atrocities.”

– Deputy Assistant Secretary W. Patrick Murphy

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Travels to Mexico

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan traveled to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, to address the Mexico Business Forum on October 23. While in Mexico, the Deputy Secretary met with U.S. and Mexican business leaders and reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship. 

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Hosts Event to Support U.S. Bid for Expo 2023

The United States is seeking international support for the U.S. bid to host the 2023 Expo, also known as the World's Fair, in Minnesota. The Bureau of International Expositions General Assembly will select the location for the 2023 Expo on November 15, 2017. Read Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s remarks at the event here

United States Supports Spanish Unity

On October 27, State Department Spokesperson Nauert commented on the situation in Spain. The Spokesperson said, “The United States enjoys a great friendship and an enduring partnership with our NATO Ally Spain. Our two countries cooperate closely to advance our shared security and economic priorities. Catalonia is an integral part of Spain, and the United States supports the Spanish government’s constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united.”

State Department Helps To Combat the Opioid Crisis

On October 26, President Trump outlined a whole-of-government approach to addressing the opioid crisis in the United States. The State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) is leading efforts around the globe related to the opioids crisis.

During a special press briefing, INL Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Walsh explained, “With heroin and synthetic opioids fueling this crisis produced overseas, transnational criminal organizations moving this deadly product, our national strategy to respond to this crisis must include an international component. Responding to this crisis is a top priority for the administration, and here at the State Department we’re leveraging our partnerships across the globe to stem the flow of these killer drugs. We’re pulling diplomatic levers both bilaterally and multilaterally, and using foreign assistance to protect U.S. communities.”

State Department Recognizes Intersex Awareness Day

In a statement released on October 26, Department Spokesperson Nauert recognized the 2017 Intersex Awareness Day. Spokesperson Nauert said, “We reaffirm our strong commitment to promoting a world where all persons can freely and equally express themselves with dignity, regardless of sex characteristics. When those most marginalized in society are afforded equal protection and opportunity, global security and stability are strengthened. Increased recognition, understanding and awareness of intersex persons and their human rights strengthens democracy for all.”

Follow the State Department on Twitter and Facebook for additional information and updates.

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