This Week at State: March 16, 2018

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This Week at State: March 16, 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 key moments from This Week at State:

UN Security Council Briefing on Syria Ceasefire Implementation

On Monday, March 12, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations addressed a UN Security Council briefing on the situation in Syria. Sixteen days prior, the United Nations Security Council had agreed to a 30-day ceasefire in the brutal bombardment of civilians in Syria.  In her remarks, Ambassador Haley said that ceasefire has failed and outlined actions the United States is taking towards a new ceasefire resolution.

Secretary Tillerson Thanks State Department Colleagues

On Tuesday, March 13, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed recent diplomatic achievements and thanked his State Department colleagues for their commitment to the mission.

“We remain steadfast here in Washington and at posts across the world, many of whom are in danger pay situations without their families. The world needs selfless leaders like these, ready to work with longstanding allies, new emerging partners and allies, who now – many are struggling as democracies, and in some cases are dealing with human tragedy, crisis of natural disasters, literally crawling themselves out of those circumstances. These are experiences that no lecture hall in a academic environment or at a think tank can teach you. Only by people going to the front lines to serve can they develop this kind of talent.” - Secretary Tillerson

United States Shares Assessment Regarding Russian Involvement in U.K. Attack

In a press statement on March 14 and a joint statement with France, Germany, and the United Kingdom on March 15, the United States shares the United Kingdom’s assessment that Russia is responsible for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter. In the joint statement, the four nations also called on Russia to “live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security.”

“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes.” - White House Press Statement

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Meets with Japanese and Korean Counterparts

On March 16, Deputy Secretary Sullivan met with Japanese Foreign Minister Tara Kono at the Department of State. During the meeting, the two leaders affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japan Alliance in the region, and agreed that international pressure on the DPRK must be maintained until the DPRK takes credible, verifiable, and concrete steps toward denuclearization.

 On March 16, Deputy Secretary Sullivan also met  with Republic of Korea Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. During the meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed the U.S.-R.O.K. Alliance and both sides agreed that the announcement of a meeting between President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is an historic opportunity and evidence that the global maximum pressure campaign is working and must remain in effect. 

United States Leads Effort to Secure International Control on Opioids

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs James Walsh led the U.S. delegation to the 61st United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna, Austria, from March 12-16. DAS Walsh delivered the United States national statement on the global response to the opioid crisis, and led the United States’ initiative to secure tighter international controls on carfentanil, a powerful opioid.

For more information on these meetings, check out this blog entry.

United States Reaffirms Position that Crimea is Ukraine

In a March 14 statement, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. “Crimea is part of Ukraine and our Crimea-related sanctions will remain in place until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine,” said Department Spokesperson Nauert.

Harassment of the Press in Iran

Department Spokesperson Nauert expressed the United States’ concern over the grave conditions facing the press in Iran in a March 15 statement. Department Spokesperson Nauert commented on UN Special Rapporteur reports of the arbitrary arrest, detention, and harassment of journalists, media workers, and their families, including during interviews conducted during missions in Iran.

“These actions are unacceptable. The United States calls on the Iranian regime to respect its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that guarantee the freedom of expression, including for members of the press.” - Department Spokesperson Nauert

United States Marks Seventh Anniversary of Syrian Civil War

On the seventh Anniversary of the start of the civil war in Syria, National Security Advisor (NSA) Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster gave remarks at the National Holocaust Memorial Museum’s event on Syria. In his speech, NSA McMaster highlighted key United States actions in Syria. He also discussed the need to address Iran’s destabilizing role and Russia’s role in the conflict. Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert also commemorated the anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War.

Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Mitchell Visits the Balkans and Mediterranean

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell traveled to Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, and Cyprus from March 12-17. In Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, Assistant Secretary Mitchell encouraged necessary reforms, urged normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and reaffirmed U.S. support for ongoing Macedonia-Greece talks. In Greece, the Assistant Secretary discussed bilateral cooperation and regional security issues, and in Cyprus, the Assistant Secretary discussed Cyprus negotiations and energy issues, and met with Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders. 

President Trump Hosts Irish Prime Minister and Annual Shamrock Bowl Ceremony

On March 15, President Donald J. Trump hosted Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at the White House for a meeting and the annual Shamrock Bowl Ceremony. Deputy Secretary Sullivan also attended.

During his remarks, President Trump highlighted the long relationship between the United States and Ireland, and the impact that Irish Americans have made. He also explained the significance of the shamrock, representing the “the long and beautiful relationship between the American and Irish peoples.”

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.