This Week at State: January 26, 2018

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This Week at State: January 26, 2018

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:

President Trump Addresses the World Economic Forum

On January 26, President Donald J. Trump delivered remarks to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The President’s address marked only the second time a sitting U.S. president has attended the Forum in person. In his remarks, the President conveyed an important message to world leaders: A prosperous America benefits the world, and fair economic competition is essential to that prosperity.

President Trump also made his pitch for investing in the American economy. “There has never been a better time to hire, to build, to invest and to grow in the United States,” he said. “America is open for business and we are competitive once again.” Specifically, the President explained how his “America First” vision fit into Davos’ 2018 theme of “creating a shared future in a fractured world”

Secretary Tillerson also traveled to Davos, Switzerland to participate in the 2018 World Economic Forum and follow President Trump’s schedule of meetings.

Vice President Pence Travels to Middle East

Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Egypt, Jordan, and Israel January 19-23 to address the shared need to combat terrorism and assist persecuted religious minorities.

On January 20, the Vice President met with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.On January 21, in Jordan, Vice President Pence met with His Majesty King Abdullah II. On January 23, in Israel, the Vice President participated in bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

The Vice President also delivered remarks at a special session of the Knesset, and visit Yad Vashem and the Western Wall.

Secretary Tillerson Speaks on Russia's Responsibility for the Ongoing Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

On January 23, Secretary Tillerson traveled to Paris, France, where he met with senior French officials to discuss global issues of mutual concern, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, the DPRK, and Ukraine, in addition to other areas of bilateral interest.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at Quai d'Orsay in Paris, France on January 23, 2018. (State Department photo)

Secretary Tillerson also attended the launch of the International Partnership against Impunity for Use of Chemical Weapons. At the launching conference and signing ceremony, Secretary Tillerson commented on Russia's responsibility for the ongoing use of chemical weapons in Syria. Secretary Tillerson noted that since April 2014, there has been mounting evidence that Syria continues to illicitly possess chemical weapons and use them against its own people. The Secretary outlined Russia’s continued failure to live up to its commitments stating,“Russia’s failure to resolve the chemical weapons issue in Syria calls into question its relevance to the resolution to the overall crisis. At a bare minimum, Russia must stop vetoing and at least abstain from future Security Council votes on this issue.”

Secretary Tillerson Meets with British Foreign Secretary Johnson in the United Kingdom

On January 21, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to London, United Kingdom, where he met with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill to discuss our cooperation on issues of mutual concern around the world, including Iran, Syria, Libya, the DPRK and Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson address reporters in Carlton Gardens, in London, England on January 22, 2018. (State Department photo)

Ambassador Haley Addresses UN Security Council Meeting on the Situation in the Middle East

On January 25, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley delivered remarks a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East. Ambassador Haley said, “The United States remains deeply committed to helping the Israelis and the Palestinians reach a historic peace agreement that brings a better future to both peoples, just as we did successfully with the Egyptians and the Jordanians. But we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace. To get historic results, we need courageous leaders. History has provided such leaders in the past. For the sake of the Palestinian and Israeli people, we pray it does so again.”

USAID Administrator Green Announces Launch of Smart Communities Coalition With Private-sector Partners at the World Economic Forum

On January 24, USAID Administrator Mark Green and Mastercard Executive Vice President of Public-Private Partnerships Tara Nathan co-chaired the launch of the Smart Communities Coalition at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The Smart Cities Coalition will address technology challenges that refugees and host communities face, and increase their Internet connectivity, digital-payment capabilities, and energy access within refugee settlements. The Smart Cities Coalition will improve camp-management and service delivery, and help empower refugees to provide for themselves and their families.

USAID Administrator Green Visits Syria

On January 22, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green traveled to Raqqa, Syria with General Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command. Administrator Green is the highest-ranking civilian from the U.S. Government to visit Syria since the conflict began in 2011.

Spokesperson Nauert commented on the USAID Administrators travel to Syria during the Department’s press briefing on January 23 stating, “now with the city liberated, we have State Department and USAID officials on the ground in northern Syria working alongside our Department of Defense colleagues to help people return home and get them back on their feet.”

On January 21, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement on the situation in Northwest Syria underscoring the United States concern about the situation in northwest Syria, particularly regarding the plight of innocent civilians who are now faced with an escalation in fighting.

State Department Condemns Attacks in Afghanistan

On January 21, Secretary Tillerson released a statement condemning the attack at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul.

“The United States stands with the government and people of Afghanistan. We remain firmly committed to supporting Afghan efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity for their country. Violence like what we witnessed yesterday has no place in Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world.”

- Secretary Tillerson, Statement on Afghanistan Attacks

Spokesperson Nauert commented on the attack at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul during a briefing to members of the press on January 23, stating, “violence like this has no place in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.” 

On January 24, Spokesperson Nauert also condemned this week’s attack on a Save the Children office in Afghanistan and extended condolences to those affected.

State Department Condemns Violence in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Spokesperson Nauert released a statement condemning the violence perpetrated by DRC security forces on January 21 against church-led peaceful protests that resulted in at least six confirmed deaths, dozens of injuries, and numerous arbitrary arrests.

“We call on President Kabila to hold accountable security force members who fired on civilians or ordered the use of lethal force and urge him and his government to ensure a peaceful and open electoral process so that credible elections are held as scheduled in December 2018.”

-Spokesperson Nauert

United States Rejects Call for Snap Presidential Elections in Venezuela

In a statement released on January 24, Spokesperson Nauert conveyed that the United States strongly rejects the call by Venezuela’s illegitimate Constituent Assembly for snap presidential elections before April 30.

This vote would be neither free nor fair. It would only deepen, not help resolve, national tensions. It would not reflect the will of the Venezuelan people, and would be seen as undemocratic and illegitimate in the eyes of the international community. We call on the Maduro regime to respect the human rights of all of its citizens, and to return to democratic constitutional order.”

-Spokesperson Nauert

The State Department hosted a background briefing with senior State Department officials on the situation in venezuela on January 25 underscoring what has occured in the country is “a complete undermining of democratic, constitutional order.”

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.