This Week at State: April 26, 2019

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This Week at State: April 26, 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:

United States Condemns Terror Attacks in Sri Lanka

In a press statement on April 21, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo condemned the terror attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter morning and offered condolences to the families of those killed and injured. The Secretary said, “These vile attacks are a stark reminder of why the United States remains resolved in our fight to defeat terrorism. We stand with the Sri Lankan government and people as they confront violent extremism and have offered our assistance as they work to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Meetings with Global Leaders

On April 20, Secretary Pompeo spoke by phone with President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan. On

April 22, Secretary Pompeo spoke by phone with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi.

On April 24, Secretary Pompeo met with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

On April 25, Secretary Pompeo met with Costa Rican Foreign Minister Manuel Ventura and on April 26, the Secretary met with Secretary Pompeo meets with Kazakhstani National Security Committee Chairman Karim Masimov, at the Department of State.

United States Comments on Ukrainian Presidential Elections

Ina statement on April 22, State Department Spokesperson Megan Ortagus congratulated President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskyy on his victory in the Ukrainian presidential elections. In the statement, the spokesperson also congratulated the Ukrainian people on holding elections that reflect Ukraine’s vibrant democracy five years after the 2014 Revolution of Dignity and after five years of unrelenting Russian aggression.

U.S. Embassy in The Hague Earns Certification for New Construction Green Building

On April 22, in honor of its commitment to resiliency and environmental stewardship, the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations announced the new U.S. Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands, has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for New Construction green building rating system. The Embassy in The Hague joins 45 diplomatic missions worldwide that have achieved LEED certification. By reducing diplomatic facilities demand on energy and diversifying energy sources, OBO is enhancing both the efficiency and resiliency of the Department’s operations.

Rewards for Justice Program Offers Reward for Information on Hizballah’s Financial Networks

On April 22, the Department of State announced that its Rewards for Justice Program is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the global terrorist organization Lebanese Hizballah. This announcement marks the first time that the Department has offered a reward for information on Hizballah’s global financial networks.

State Department Ambassador for Counterterrorism  Nathan Sales, Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff and U.S. Department of Treasury Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing Marshall Billingslea discussed this new initiative in remarks at the Foreign Press Centers on April 22.

Secretary Pompeo Announces Decision to Issue Zero Sanctions Exceptions to Importers of Iranian Oil

In remarks to the press on April 22, Secretary Pompeo announced that the United States will not issue any additional Significant Reduction Exceptions to existing importers of Iranian oil. The Secretary said, “The Trump Administration has taken Iran’s oil exports to historic lows, and we are dramatically accelerating our pressure campaign in a calibrated way that meets our national security objectives while maintaining well supplied global oil markets. We stand by our allies and partners as they transition away from Iranian crude to other alternatives.”

On April 22, Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook discussed this announcement in interviews with Fox Business and

Read more on the United States’ Maximum Pressure Campaign on Iran.

U.S. Expresses Concerns on Houthi Detention of Baha’i Leader

In a press statement on April 22, Spokesperson Ortagus expressed concern about credible reports that the Houthis continue to severely mistreat, arbitrarily detain, and torture Baha’is in Yemen.

Imprisoned since 2013, prominent Baha’i leader Hamed bin Haydara was sentenced to death on unconfirmed charges of alleged espionage and apostasy in January 2018. The Houthis have refused to provide the evidence against him or release him, and most recently refused to rule on an appeal in his case. The Spokesperson emphasized, “The Houthis have targeted dozens of Baha’is with charges similar to those imposed on Hamed bin Haydara and other unfounded charges related to religious affiliation. This persistent pattern of vilification, oppression, and mistreatment by the Houthis of Baha’is in Yemen must end.”

Special Representative for Syria Engagement Jeffrey Travels to Geneva

On April 24, the Secretary’s Special Representative for Syria Engagement Ambassador Jim Jeffrey traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen to discuss the conflict in Syria and the United States’ ongoing support for the UN-led process in Geneva and UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2254.

U.S. Condemns Russia’s Decision to Grant Citizenship to Residents of Russia-Controlled Eastern Ukraine

In a press statement on April 24, Spokesperson Ortagus conveyed the United States; condemnation of the decision by President Putin to provide expedited Russian citizenship to Ukrainians living in Russia-controlled eastern Ukraine. The Spokesperson said, “Russia, through this highly provocative action, is intensifying its assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

U.S. Comments on Freedom of Expression in Burma

In a statement on April 24, Spokesperson Ortagus expressed concern regarding Burma’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the sentencing of Pulitzer-prize winning journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, despite serious irregularities in the case against them. This decision, she noted, “sends a profoundly negative signal about freedom of expression and the protection of journalists in Burma.” She continued, “In this regard, the United States is deeply concerned by recent arrests of reporters, political activists, civil society members, and satirical performers in Burma.”

State Department Updates the Cuba Restricted List

On April 24, the State Department updated the Cuba Restricted List with five additional sub-entities owned by the Cuban military. The State Department will continue to update the list as needed to ensure U.S. funds do not directly support Cuba’s security apparatus. Cuba’s military, security, and intelligence services suppress the human rights of the Cuban people and are deeply entrenched in Venezuela, providing security services to the former regime of Nicolas Maduro and contributing to its oppression of the Venezuelan people.

U.S. Commemorates Anzac Day

In a statement on April 24, Secretary Pompeo affirmed that the United States stands with all Australians and New Zealanders as they mark Anzac Day on the 104th anniversary of the first landings at Gallipoli. The Secretary acknowledged the sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand service personnel during World War 1 and stated “The heroic actions of courageous Australian and New Zealand men and women, side by side with Americans in the trenches of the Western Front and across the harshest deserts of the Middle East, helped build a world safe for freedom and democracy.”

State Department Hosts Trilateral Strategic Dialogue Counterterrorism Consultations

On April 24, Ambassador Nathan A. Sales, Coordinator for Counterterrorism, hosted the 13th U.S.-Australia-Japan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue Counterterrorism Consultations in Washington, D.C. The TSD focused on Southeast Asia, covering a comprehensive set of shared counterterrorism objectives, new threats, and persistent changes.

Special Representative Abrams Discusses Venezuela at the Atlantic Council

On April 25, Special Representative for Venezuela Elliot Abrams delivered remarks at the Atlantic Council’s event, "Venezuela After Maduro: A Vision for the Country's Future." In his remarks he underscored the importance of a democratic transition in the country.

The Special Representative reiterated the United States support for freedom in Venezuela.

State Department Hosts Take Your Child to Work Day

On April 25, the State Department hosted its annual Take Your Child to Work Day, during which many employees brought their children to the Department to learn more about the work and world of diplomacy. Secretary Pompeo welcomes the children to the Department before they dispersed for a day of engaging simulations and educational activities.

State Department Publicly Designates Chechen Republic Prime Minister Due to Gross Violations of Human Rights

On April 15, the State Department publicly designated Muslim Khuchiev, the Chairman (Prime Minister) of the Government of the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Act, due to his involvement in gross violations of human rights.

State Department Comments on Hong Kong and 2014 Occupy Movement Cases and Fugitive Ordinance

In a statement on April 25, Spokesperson Ortagus said, “The United States is disappointed by the decision of the Hong Kong Government to prosecute and convict several Hong Kong residents for organizing peaceful protests during the Occupy Central movement in 2014. We are concerned that this decision will limit or discourage the people of Hong Kong from exercising the basic freedoms guaranteed them under the Joint Declaration.”

State Department Recognizes World Malaria Day

On April 25, the State Department joined the interagency and international community in recognizing World Malaria Day. The State Department highlighted ways the President’s Malaria Initiative, known as PMI, is working to eliminate the disease.

State Department Comments on Delivery of Humanitarian Assistance to Rukban

In a statement on April 25, Spokesperson Ortagus said, “The United States is appalled by the Assad regime’s decision to reject the UN request to deliver a convoy of urgently needed humanitarian aid from Damascus to the Rukban encampment. We remain deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Rukban, especially as the Holy Month of Ramadan is about to begin. We urge the Assad regime and Russia to permit deliveries of international humanitarian assistance from Damascus and stop blocking commercial routes to the encampment immediately in order avert further suffering.”

Secretary Pompeo RecognizesTanzania's Union Day

In a statement on April 26, Secretary Pompeo recognized the 55th anniversary of the United Republic of Tanzania. He said, “Americans and Tanzanians have worked together on important issues for the prosperity of our peoples throughout the years. Free, fair, and inclusive elections are the cornerstones of a strong democracy. As the 2020 elections approach, may Tanzania reflect on the role democratic values, including tolerance, play in securing a peaceful and prosperous future.”

Secretary Pompeo Addresses Delivers Remarks on “One Team, One Mission: Introducing our Ethos” to State Department Employees

On April 26, Secretary Pompeo delivered remarks to State Department employees and thanked them for their work. The Secretary emphasized the importance of the work of the State Department and reiterated his commitment to communicating with its employees both in Washington, DC and around the world.

Joint Statement on Trilateral Meeting on Afghan Peace Process

On April 26, the Governments of the United States of America, Russia, and China released a joint statement on the occasion of the Trilateral Meeting on the Afghan Peace Process.

The United States Sanctions Maduro-Aligned Individuals

On April 26, the United States sanctioned two officials aligned with the former Maduro regime pursuant to Executive Order 13962, which allows for the designation of any person determined to be a current or former official of the Government of Venezuela. Jorge Alberto Arreaza Montserrat was the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Carol Bealexis Padilla de Arretureta is a judge associated with the March 21 detainment of Interim President Juan Guaido’s Chief of Staff Roberto Marrero.

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.