This Week at State: December 14, 2018

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This Week at State: December 14, 2018

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? 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 key moments from This Week at State:

State Department Recognizes International Anti-Corruption Day

In a statement, in recognition of International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, Secretary Pompeo pledged to continue working with our partners to prevent and combat corruption worldwide.

“On this day, we call on all countries to effectively implement their international anticorruption commitments, including through the UN Convention against Corruption. Through programs that recover and return stolen public funds, establish transparent, accountable institutions, and empower citizen-led action, the world can combat this threat to global security.”

- Secretary Pompeo

State Department Celebrates International Human Rights Day

On International Human Rights Day, Secretary Pompeo released a statement reiterating the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights around the world and underscoring the importance of human rights in the United States' foreign policy.

"U.S. foreign policy is rooted in the understanding that governments that respect individual rights and fundamental freedoms remain the best vehicles for prosperity, stability, and peace. On this International Human Rights Day, the United States underscores its commitment to promoting human freedom at home and around the world."

- Secretary Pompeo

Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Learn more in this DipNote blog entry.

On Human Rights Day, Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino released a statement highlighting the release of the Report on Human Rights Abuses and Censorship in North Korea.

U.S. and Senegal Sign Millennium Challenge Corporation Power Compact

On December 10, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo welcomed Senegalese Prime Minister Mahammed Boun Abdallah Dionne to the State Department for the signing of a Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact.

MCC and the Government of Senegal developed the compact to strengthen the power sector and meet the growing demand for reliable electricity in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, and an important strategic partner of the U.S. in West Africa. Learn more in this DipNote blog.

Secretary Pompeo Discusses Global Issues in Media Interviews

On December 10, Secretary Pompeo spoke via teleconference with Hugh Hewitt of the Hugh Hewitt Show, where he discussed his travel to Brussels, Brexit, Russia, and China.

On December 12, Secretary Pompeo appeared on Fox and Friends, where he discussed President Trump’s effort to reassert American global leadership, efforts to counter terrorism, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia.

Secretary Pompeo Meets with Foreign Leaders

On December 10, Secretary Pompeo met with Senegalese Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne at the Department. On December 11, Secretary Pompeo spoke by phone with Georgian President-elect Salome Zourabichvili.

On December 12, Deputy Secretary Sullivan met with Senior Slovak Officials in Bratislava.

On December 13, Secretary Pompeo met with President Donald Trump, at the White House and Greek Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos, as part of the U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue, at the Department of State.

On December 14, Secretary Pompeo met with Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar at the Department.

Secretary Pompeo Participates in the Department’s Annual Toys for Tots Event

On December 10, Secretary Pompeo delivered remarks at the Toys for Tots ceremonial presentation event to the Marine Corps Reserve at the Department of State.

Ministerial on Counterterrorism Cooperation in the Americas

On December 11, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan hosted a ministerial on counterterrorism cooperation in the Western Hemisphere in Washington, D.C., attended by senior officials from multiple U.S. agencies and from twelve key North, Central, and South American partner countries. Deputy Secretary Sullivan emphasized that as global terrorist threats evolve, our governments have vital experiences and information to share with one another, and the only way to counter these serious challenges is by working together.

Read more about the Ministerial in this DipNote blog.

Special Envoy McGurk Briefs on the Global Effort to Defeat ISIS

On December 11, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS Brett McGurk briefed the press corps on the great work our diplomats and military personnel are doing to secure the enduring defeat ofISIS together with the Global Coalition’s 79 partners.

Secretary Pompeo Updates Religious Freedom Designations

On December 11, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo commented on his recent designations of Countries of Particular Concern under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated ”systematic, ongoing, [and] egregious violations of religious freedom.”

These designations include Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Comoros, Russia, and Uzbekistan were also placed on a Special Watch List for governments that have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom” and al-Nusra Front, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qa'ida, al-Shabab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Khorasan, and the Taliban were designated as Entities of Particular Concern.

“The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression. Protecting and promoting international religious freedom is a top foreign policy priority of the Trump Administration.”

- Secretary Pompeo

Read more about these religious freedom designations in the transcript of a briefing with Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback.

Secretary Pompeo Travels to New York City for Security Council Meeting on Iran

On December 12, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participated in a United Nations Security Council meeting on Iran at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York city. During the Security Council meeting, Secretary Pompeo underscored the Administration’s unyielding resolve to address the Iranian regime’s threats to international peace and security through their continued development and proliferation of ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

The Secretary delivered remarks in a press availability following the Security Council meeting.

State Department Publicly Designates Nicaragua’s Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes Due to Significant Corruption

On December 12, the Department publicly designated the President of Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council, Roberto Jose Rivas Reyes, under the terms of Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2018.  Rivas’ designation, due to his involvement in significant corruption and for perpetuating electoral fraud that undermined Nicaragua’s electoral institutions, makes him and his immediate family members ineligible for entry into the United States.

Deputy Spokesperson Palladino Launches Official Twitter Account

On December 12, Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino officially joined Twitter with a warm welcome from his colleagues.

Deputy Spokesperson Palladino Condemns Attack in Strasbourg

In a statement on December 12, Deputy Spokesperson Palladino condemned the horrific act of terror in Strasbourg, France, and emphasized that the United States remains committed to working with France and our other allies and partners to defeat the global threat of terrorism.

State Department Director of Policy Planning Pens Opinion Piece on the Nation-State’s Role in a Free an Open Order

On December 12, Director of the State Department’s office of Policy Planning Kiron Skinner wrote an opinion piece on the Trump Administration reasserting the nation-state’s role in a free and open order that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Ambassador Bolton Delivers Remarks on the Trump Administration’s New Africa Policy

Assistant to the President for National Security Strategy, Ambassador John Bolton, delivered remarks laying out the Trump Administration's new Africa strategy at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC on December 13.

Ambassador Bolton emphasized that President Trump’s Africa strategy is the result of an intensive interagency process, and reflects the core tenets of President Trump’s foreign policy doctrine. Learn more in this DipNote blog.

U.S. Hosts Inaugural Strategic Dialogue with Greece

The Governments of the United States and Greece held the inaugural U.S.-Greece Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 2018. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Greek Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs George Katrougalos launched the Dialogue, which included high-level interagency representation from both countries.

The Strategic Dialogue builds on a year of intensive engagement, highlights the strength of the bilateral relationship, and confirms the mutual commitment of the United States and Greece to deepen cooperation in the areas described in this joint statement.

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Participates in U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Dialogue

Deputy Secretary Sullivan participated in a U.S.-Russia Counterterrorism Dialogue in Vienna, Austria on December 13 with the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister responsible for counterterrorism, Oleg Vladimirovich Syromolotov.

Conclusion of Yemen Consultations in Sweden

On December 13, Secretary Pompeo released a statement, commenting on the conclusion of Yemen consultations in Sweden.

“Although many details remain subject to further discussion, these consultations between the Republic of Yemen Government and the Houthis marked a pivotal first step. All parties have an opportunity to build upon this momentum and improve the lives of all Yemenis. Moving forward, all must continue to engage, de-escalate tensions, and cease ongoing hostilities. This is the best way to give these and future consultations a chance to succeed.”

- Secretary Pompeo

State Department Condemns Death of Iranian Political Prisoner and Human Rights Activist Vahid Sayadi-Nassiri

On December 13, Deputy Spokesperson Palladino released a statement on the death of Mr. Vahid Sayadi-Nassiri, a human rights activist who the Iranian regime arbitrarily detained and who died in prison. The Deputy Spokesperson condemned in the strongest possible terms the Iranian regime for its unceasingly flagrant human rights violations and offered our sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Sayadi-Nassiri.

U.S. Comments on the Repression of Civil Society, Human Rights Defenders, and Independent Media in Nicaragua

On December 13, Deputy Secretary Palladino commented on the repression of human rights defenders in Nicaragua. In a statement, he said, “The Nicaraguan regime’s recent actions to strip legal status from non-governmental organizations, including groups monitoring human rights, reveal President Ortega’s and Vice President Murillo’s continued contempt for human rights in their own country. Their efforts to harass, threaten, and repress independent media will not succeed in hiding the systematic oppression of the Nicaraguan people.”

The United States Sanctions Three Individuals for Threatening Peace in South Sudan

On December 14,  the United States imposed sanctions on three individuals for their roles in the conflict in South Sudan.

Fourth Round of Negotiations To Modernize the Columbia River Treaty Regime Conclude

The United States and Canada held the fourth round of negotiations to modernize the Columbia River Treaty regime December 12-13 in Vancouver, British Columbia.  On December 14, Deputy Spokesperson Palladino commented on the conclusion of the fourth round of these negotiations.

U.S.-Canada 2+2 Ministerial

On December 14, Secretary Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis joined Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland and Canadian Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan for policy discussions on the bilateral relationship, regional cooperation, and joint security initiatives.

The Secretary delivered remarks at a press availability after the ministerial.

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.