This Week at State: March 8, 2019

11 minutes read time

This Week at State: March 8, 2019

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 Announces Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Houston

In a statement on March 3, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino announced Secretary Pompeo will travel to Houston, Texas on March 12 to deliver keynote remarks at CERA Energy Week’s “Reshaping the Energy Future” conference. The Secretary’s speech, he shared, will address how America’s energy revolution strengthens national security in an age of renewed great power competition.

Merger of U.S. Embassy Jerusalem and U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem

Deputy Spokesperson Palladino released a statement on March 3, noting that the U.S. Consulate General Jerusalem would merge into U.S. Embassy Jerusalem on March 4, to form a single diplomatic mission. The Deputy Spokesperson underscored the merger does not signal a change of U.S. policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip and reiterated that the United States continues to take no position on final status issues, including boundaries or borders.

Secretary Pompeo Enacts 30-Day Suspension of LIBERTAD Act

On March 4, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo announced an exception to the 30-day suspension of Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act in order to hold Cuba accountable and make whole U.S. claimants for assets seized by the Cuban government. This exception is necessary to the national interests of the United States and will expedite a transition to democracy in Cuba.

Secretary Pompeo Travels to Des Moines, Iowa

Secretary Pompeo traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, March 3-4 to discuss how the American agriculture industry’s embrace of free enterprise and innovation helps bring prosperity to the American people and high-quality American products to the world. He also discussed how the State Department serves American economic interests through the promotion of American exports.

Secretary Pompeo delivered remarks to the Future Farmers of America as well as meet with high school students interested in public service careers. He toured a Corteva Research Facility and meet with Corteva leadership to discuss agriscience, innovation, and food security. The Secretary also delivered remarks to farmers and agricultural leaders in Iowa at the World Food Prize Headquarters.

United States Announces Grace Koh as U.S. Delegation Lead to ITU World Radiocommunication Conference

On March 4, Deputy Spokesperson Palladino released a statement announcing that Grace Koh would lead the U.S. delegation to the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Venezuela: U.S. Welcomes Interim President Juan Guaido’s Return to Venezuela, Imposes Visa Restrictions and Additional Sanctions, and Addresses Nationwide Power Outages 

In a statement on March 4, Secretary Pompeo applauded the people of Venezuela for their actions to create a peaceful democratic transition, and congratulated Interim President Juan Guaido on his successful diplomatic efforts in the region and safe return to Venezuela.

On March 5, the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams delivered remarks on Venezuela. The Special Representative discussed new visa restrictions the United States imposed on individuals responsible for undermining Venezuela’s democracy and highlighted additional sanctions announced by the U.S. Department of Treasury taking action against six security officials of the illegitimate Maduro regime, individuals associated with the obstruction of the entry of international humanitarian aid into Venezuela or violence against those who attempted to deliver the assistance. Read more about his remarks in this blog.

On March 8, Special Representative Abrams addressed reporters  on these actions and nationwide power outages in Venezuela.

Secretary Pompeo addressed these power outages in a series of tweets on March 7, stating “The power outage and the devastation hurting ordinary Venezuelans is not because of the USA. It’s not because of Colombia.  It’s not Ecuador or Brazil, Europe or anywhere else. Power shortages and starvation are the result of the Maduro regime’s incompetence. Maduro’s policies bring nothing but darkness.No food. No medicine. Now, no power. Next, no Maduro.”

State Department Announces Gilman Top Producing Institutions

On March 5, the State Department announced the U.S. higher education institutions that sent the most students overseas on its Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program in academic year 2017-2018. For the second year, the State Department is recognizing the institutions that made international study and internships more accessible and inclusive for the largest number of American students of all backgrounds through its Gilman Program.

Meetings with Global Leaders

On March 5, Secretary Pompeo met with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen at the State Department. Secretary Pompeo also spoke by phone with UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy HuntFrench Foreign Minister Le Drian,  Former Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Barzani and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi.

On March 7, Secretary Pompeo attended President Donald Trump's expanded bilateral meeting with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, at the White House.

On March 8, Secretary Pompeo met with United Kingdom National Security Advisor Mark Sedwill, at the Department of State.

United States Congratulates Senegalese President on Reelection

In a statement on March 5, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo congratulated President Macky Sall on his election to a second term, and saluted the Senegalese people and all of the presidential candidates for their demonstrated commitment to a peaceful election, which reflects Senegal’s strong democratic values and traditions.

U.S. Expresses Support for Germany’s Request for Lebanon to Extradite Syrian General Jamil Hassan

On March 5, Deputy Spokesperson Palladino released a statement welcoming any decision by the Government of Lebanon that would facilitate the lawful extradition of Syrian General Jamil Hassan to Germany.

State Department Designates Iranian Proxy Group Harakat al-Nujaba and its Leader

On March 5, the State Department designated the Iranian proxy group Harakat al-Nujaba (HAN) and its leader Akram ‘Abbas al-Kabi as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224. This action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that HAN and al-Kabi have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.

State Department Launches the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs

On March 6, the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) launched the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a new initiative supporting women entrepreneurs around the world. The Academy, in support of the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, will equip women with the practical skills needed to create sustainable businesses and enterprises.

State Department Launches U.S.-India Higher Education Research Collaboration Initiative

On March 6, the U.S. Department of State’s South and Central Asia Bureau launched Partnership 2020, an initiative to build research partnerships between U.S. and Indian institutions in key 21st century academic fields. Under this initiative, the U.S. Department of State has granted $1.15 million to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, which will award sub-grants on a competitive basis to U.S. universities to conduct joint research with their Indian counterpart institutions.

State Department Comments on the Release of the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Report on Investigation Into Chemical Weapons Use in Douma, Syria

On March 7, Deputy Spokesperson Palladino commented on the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Fact-Finding Mission release of its final report on March 1, 2019, regarding its investigation into chemical weapons use in Douma, Syria, on April 7, 2018. “The conclusions in the FFM report support what the United States determined in our assessment of the attack last April - that the regime is responsible for this heinous chemical weapons attack that killed and injured civilians. The Assad regime’s use of chlorine as a chemical weapon is a violation of its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which it is a party, as well as UNSCR 2118,”he said.

Secretary Pompeo Honors 2019 International Women of Courage Awards

On March 6, the State Department announced the recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage Award.  On March 7, Secretary Pompeo honored this group of extraordinary women in a ceremony at the Department.

First Lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony and delivered special remarks.

Established in 2007, this annual award honors women around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength, and leadership in acting to bring positive change to their societies, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. IWOC Award recipient Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma, delivered remarks at the ceremony.

On March 8, the State Department joined the international community in commemorating International Women’s Day. On the heels of its 2019 IWOC ceremony, the Secretary released a statement.

U.S. Commemorates the 12th Anniversary of the Capture of Robert A. Levinson

On March 8, Secretary Pompeo released a statement recognizing the 12th anniversary of the capture of Robert Levinson on Kish Island, Iran.

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.