This Week at State: April 20, 2018

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This Week at State: April 20, 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:

United States Explains Allied Strikes in Syria, Outlines Next Steps

Following the April 13 allied strikes against Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, in response to the April 7 chemical weapons attack on Douma, the United States explained the rationale for the strikes, and outlined its next steps in Syria.

In an emergency UN Security Council Meeting on Syria on April 14, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley gave remarks on the allied strikes.

“We cannot stand by and let Russia trash every international norm that we stand for, and allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered. And just as the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons last weekend was not an isolated incident, our response is part of a new course charted last year to deter future use of chemical weapons. Our Syrian strategy has not changed. However, the Syrian regime has forced us to take action based on their repeated use of chemical weapons.”

- Ambassador Haley

On April 15, Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert addressed the allied strikes and the continued need for the Syrian regime to declare and dismantle its chemical weapons program.

On April 16, U.S. Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Ambassador Kenneth Ward raised the United States’ concerns about access to the Douma chemical weapons attack site, and possible tampering with evidence of the attack.

United States Comments on Trial of Pastor Brunson in Turkey

On April 16, Department Spokesperson Nauert released a statement on the trial of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey.

“The entire U.S. government is following Mr. Brunson’s case closely. We have seen no credible evidence that Mr. Brunson is guilty of a crime and are convinced that he is innocent. We believe that Turkey is a state bound by the rule of law, and we have faith in the Turkish people's commitment to justice. We hope that the judicial system in Turkey will resolve his case in a timely, fair, and transparent manner.”

- Spokesperson Nauert

President Trump Hosts Japanese Prime Minister Abe for Summit

President Donald J. Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for summit meeting at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida on April 17 and 18th. The two leaders were joined by Acting Secretary of State John Sullivan and other senior U.S. and Japanese government officials.

In their meetings, President Trump and Prime Minister Abe affirmed their strong determination to strengthen our shared resolve on North Korea, and increase the capability of the U.S.-Japan Alliance to confront all emerging threats to peace, stability, and an international order based on the rule of law. The two leaders also expressed their joint commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and an enhanced U.S.-Japan economic relationship.

U.S. and International Security Officials Collaborate To Create a More Safe and Secure World

Over 80 international law enforcement, security, counter narcotic, and judicial officials from around the world kicked-off a three week International Visitor Leadership Program, during which they will meet with their counterparts in the United States. Part of the Towards a More Safe and Secure World initiative, the partnerships between the United States and other countries will enhance efforts to combat transnational crime.

Holding Russia Accountable for Chemical Weapons Use in the United Kingdom

Department Spokesperson Nauert released a statement on April 18 addressing the OPCW’s recent findings related to the March 4 use of a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury, UK. Spokesperson Nauert applauded “the OPCW’s expeditious support and technical efforts to uncover the facts” confirming the UK lab analysis regarding the identity of the chemical used in Salisbury.

“As we have made clear, the United States agrees with the UK’s assessment that Russia is responsible for this use of chemical weapons on UK soil– either through deliberate use or through its failure to declare and secure its stocks of this nerve agent. Only the Government of Russia has the motive, means, and record to conduct such an attack. Russia developed the type of military-grade nerve agent used in Salisbury and has a record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations.”

-        Spokesperson Nauert

United States Condemns Shooting in Ukraine

“The United States condemns yesterday’s shooting of civilian employees of the Donetsk Filtration Station in Ukraine, which left five individuals wounded,” Department Spokesperson Nauert said in an April 18 statement. “In addition to endangering the lives of innocent civilians, this attack threatened water supplies for almost 350,000 Ukrainians living on both sides of the line of contact.”

State Department Comments Progress toward Strengthening and Expanding Central America's Regional Electricity Market

The State Department applauds the regional institutions that govern Central America’s regional electricity market (the Mercado Electrico Regional, or MER) for their accomplishments and new commitments to further develop the MER and expand the Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPAC) announced at the High-Level Meeting at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, D.C. on April 17. 

Strengthening and expanding Central America’s regional electricity market is a key part of the U.S. Strategy for Central America to help the region have secure, reliable, and affordable energy that enhances regional prosperity and competitiveness.

State Department Announces Acting Secretary Sullivan to Lead U.S. Delegation to G-7 in Toronto

Acting Secretary of State John J. Sullivan will travel to Toronto, Canada from April 21-23 to lead the U.S. delegation to the G-7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. The G-7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting offers an opportunity for foreign ministers to exchange views and collaborate on global political and security issues of mutual concern, including counterterrorism, non-proliferation, North Korea, and Syria. These conversations will set the stage for the G-7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix, Canada, in June.

Acting Secretary Sullivan Meets With UN Special Envoy for Yemen

On April 19, Acting Secretary Sullivan met with UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Martin Griffiths in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, Acting Secretary Sullivan thanked Special Envoy Griffiths for his work on the challenging conflict in Yemen and underscored U.S. support for efforts to restart talks among parties, including the framework for negotiations currently being developed. The Acting Secretary and the Special Envoy discussed the dire humanitarian situation and delivery of aid to millions of civilians and refugees living in Yemen. The two agreed that the way forward to achieve peace, prosperity, and security in Yemen is through a comprehensive political agreement that will require compromise from all sides.

President Trump Approves New Policy on the Export of Unmanned Aerial Systems

In a National Security Presidential Memorandum on April 19, President Donald J. Trump approved a new policy on the export of unmanned aerial systems designed to increase trade opportunities for U.S. companies, bolster partner security and counterterrorism capabilities, strengthen bilateral relationships, preserve U.S. military advantage, and prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) delivery systems.

State Department Releases Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

On April 20, Acting Secretary Sullivan delivered remarks on the Department’s 2017 Country Report on Human Rights Practices.

The Human Rights Reports document the status of human rights and worker rights in nearly 200 countries and territories. They are required by U.S. law and are used by a variety of actors, including the U.S. Congress, the Executive branch, and the Judicial branch as a factual resource for decision making in matters ranging from assistance to asylum.

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.