This Week at State: May 10, 2019

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This Week at State: May 10, 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:

U.S. Condemns Rocket Attacks on Israel

In a press statement on May 4, Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus strongly condemned the ongoing barrage of rocket attacks by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad from Gaza upon innocent civilians and their communities across Israel.

Secretary Pompeo Discusses Global Issues in Media Interviews

On May 5, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo discussed North Korea, China, Russia, and the ongoing situation in Venezuela in interviews with with Margaret Brennan of CBS Face the NationJonathan Karl of ABC’s This Week, and Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday.

U.S. Expresses Concern Regarding Turkish Drilling in Cypriot-claimed Waters

In a press statement on May 5, Spokesperson Ortagus expressed concern over Turkey’s announced intention to begin offshore drilling operations in an area claimed by the Republic of Cyprus as its Exclusive Economic Zone. The Spokesperson said, “This step is highly provocative and risks raising tensions in the region. We urge Turkish authorities to halt these operations and encourage all parties to act with restraint."

Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Rovaniemi, Finland; Baghdad, Iraq; and London, United Kingdom

On May 7, Secretary Pompeo delivered remarks at the 11th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Rovaniemi, Finland. As an Arctic State, the United States joined seven other Arctic States at this biennial gathering to strengthen cooperation and ensure the region remains free of conflict.

While in Finland, Secretary Pompeo met with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen, and Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini. Secretary Pompeo also participated in several interviews on U.S. Arctic policy, including with Helsingin Sanomat and YLE TV1.

On May 7, Secretary Pompeo spoke with the traveling press en route to Baghdad, Iraq. In Baghdad, Secretary Pompeo met with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdil and President Barham Salih.

Secretary Pompeo spoke again to the traveling press, on May 7, en route to London to discuss his impending meetings there. In London, Secretary Pompeo participated in a Religious Freedom Roundtable, gave remarks on the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, participated in a press availability with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and spoke with Adam Boulton of Sky News.

U.S. Recognizes the United Kingdom’s Sovereignty Over British Indian Ocean Territory

In a press statement on May 6, Spokesperson Ortagus expressed support for the UK’s continued sovereignty over the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and the April 30 statement by the U.K. Government.

U.S. Expresses Support for Freedom in North Korea

In a press statement on May 6, Spokesperson Ortagus conveyed that the United States recognizes the efforts of the North Korean defector and human rights community to continue to shine a spotlight on the dire human rights situation in North Korea.

U.S. Congratulates Laurentino Cortizo on Election as President of Panama

In a press statement on May 6, Spokesperson Ortagus commended the people of Panama for exercising their right to vote in free and fair national elections as a sure sign of their thriving democracy. The Spokesperson also extended the United States’ warmest congratulations to Laurentino Cortizo on his election as the next president of the Republic of Panama.

State Department Announces Annual Greening Diplomacy Initiative Award Winners

On May 6, the State Department’s Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) recognized Embassy Canberra for their innovative leadership within the agency on sustainability, energy, and environmental diplomacy.

State Department Hosts First Annual U.S.-Kenya Bilateral Strategic Dialogue

On May 7-8, the State Department hosted the first annual U.S.-Kenya Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, established by President Trump and President Uhuru M. Kenyatta at the White House on August 27, 2018. The two countries committed to deepen economic ties, maximize Kenya’s use of trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and explore a future bilateral trade and investment framework.

U.S. Congratulates Stevo Pendarovski on Election as President in North Macedonia

In a press statement on May 7, Spokesperson Ortagus congratulated President-elect Stevo Pendarovski on his victory in North Macedonia’s presidential elections, and commended the citizens of North Macedonia who exercised their right to vote.

State Department Marks the First Anniversary of President Trump’s New Iran Strategy

In a press statement on May 8, Secretary Pompeo noted that one year ago, President Trump announced the United States would cease to participate in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and would instead embark on a bold new strategy to end Iran’s destabilizing behavior and prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon. One year later, President Trump has made good on his promise to counter Iran in a comprehensive campaign of maximum pressure.

On May 8, Special Representative Hook discussed this anniversary in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  The Special Representative said, “By nearly every measure, the regime is weaker today than when we took office two years ago. Its proxies are underfunded and demoralized. Unless the regime demonstrates a change in behavior, the pressure on Tehran will mount."

Secretary Pompeo Addresses Determination Under the Jerusalem Embassy Act

On the first anniversary since the official opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem in May 2018, Secretary Pompeo reported to Congress that the relevant elements of the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 have been addressed. The Jerusalem Embassy Act called on the State Department to open in Jerusalem not just of the offices of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Israel, but also a Chief-of-Mission Residence for the Ambassador. In March 2019, the Chief-of-Mission residence in Jerusalem was established.

State Department Promotes Partnership Opportunities in Ethiopia

On May 8, the State Department announced that it will host the Ethiopia Partnerships Forum (EPF), a U.S.-Ethiopia economic engagement platform to raise awareness of Ethiopia’s bold new efforts to transform its economy and create attractive business opportunities, on May 15-16, 2019.

U.S. Comments on the Cancellation of Istanbul Mayoral Election Results

In a press statement on May 8, Spokesperson Ortagus noted that free and fair elections and acceptance of legitimate election results are essential for any democracy, and urged Turkish authorities to carry out the Istanbul Mayoral Election in keeping with its laws and in a manner that is consistent with its OSCE commitments.

U.S. Welcomes News of Asia Bibi’s Reunification with Her Family

On May 8, the United States welcomed the news that Asia Bibi has safely reunited with her family. This important step followed the decision of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to acquit her of blasphemy charges in October 2018-- a decision that was subsequently upheld in January 2019. The United States uniformly opposes blasphemy laws anywhere in the world, as they jeopardize the exercise of fundamental freedoms.

Meetings with Global Leaders

On May 8, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan spoke with Chairman of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council General Abdel Fattah el-Burhan.

On May 9, Secretary Pompeo spoke by phone with Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo and met with Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga at the State Department in Washington, DC.

Secretary Pompeo Recognizes Israel’s National Day

In a statement on the occasion of the 71st anniversary of Israel’s independence, on May 9, Secretary Pompeo said, “ I am filled with great pride in all that the United States and Israel have accomplished together over the course of the last 71 years, and particularly over the last year. We have worked closely together to counter Iranian aggression, enhance Israel’s relationships in the region, and foster even closer ties between our peoples. I am proud to affirm our continued support for Israel.”

Secretary Pompeo Comments on Iran's Escalating Series of Threatening Actions and Statements

In a statement on May 9, Secretary Pompeo addressed Iran’s escalating series of threatening actions and statements in recent weeks. He stated, “The regime in Tehran should understand that any attacks by them or their proxies of any identity against U.S. interests or citizens will be answered with a swift and decisive U.S. response. Our restraint to this point should not be mistaken by Iran for a lack of resolve. To date the regime’s default option has been violence, and we appeal to those in Tehran who see a path to a prosperous future through de-escalation to modify the regime’s behavior.”

Secretary Pompeo Comments on the Detainment of Edgar Zambrano in Venezuela

In a statement on May 9, Secretary Pompeo said, “The arbitrary arrest yesterday evening of Edgar Zambrano, First Vice President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, is an unacceptable and illegal act that is yet another reflection of the repression of the former Maduro regime. This is an attack on the independence of the nation’s democratically elected legislative branch and is part of the Maduro regime’s continued attempts to crush dissent and free debate in Venezuela.”

Secretary Pompeo Condemns the Attack on U.S. NGO in Kabul  

In a statement on May 9, Secretary Pompeo strongly condemned the Taliban attack against Counterpart International, a U.S. nonprofit organization and USAID implementing partner in Kabul.

State Department Announces Secretary Pompeo's Upcoming Trip to Russia

On May 10, the State Department announced Secretary Pompeo will travel to Moscow and Sochi, Russia from May 12-14. On May 13, he will arrive in Russia to meet with his team at U.S. Embassy Moscow before meeting with U.S. business leaders and U.S. exchange alumni. Secretary Pompeo will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Secretary Pompeo will travel to Sochi, Russia on May 14 to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin to discuss the full range of bilateral and multilateral challenges. For more details about the Secretary's trip read this transcript of a briefing previewing the itinerary.

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.