U.S. Policy Update for Wednesday, 16 March 2016

President Obama / United Kingdom

16 March 2016 Statement by the Press Secretary on the President’s Travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom  The President will then travel to the United Kingdom, where he will be received by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle for a private lunch.  He also will be hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron at Number 10 Downing Street for a bilateral meeting and joint press conference.  The visit will allow the President to offer his gratitude to the British Government and people for their stalwart partnership with his Administration and the American people throughout his Presidency.


15 March 2016 State’s Nuland on Ukrainian Reforms Two Years After the Maidan Revolution and the Russian Invasion (Statement Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee)   “We have stood by Ukraine for more than two years as Russia has sought to stymie its democratic rebirth at every turn – with political pressure, economic pressure, and with unprecedented military aggression and violation of international law. Any set of leaders would be challenged to lead their country in this environment. Today, however, Ukraine’s European future is put at risk as much by enemies within as by external forces. The oligarchs and kleptocrats who controlled Ukraine for decades know their business model will be broken if Maidan reformers succeed in 2016. They are fighting back with a vengeance, using all the levers of the old system: their control of the media, state owned enterprises, Rada deputies, the courts and the political machinery, while holding old loyalties and threats over the heads of decision-makers to block change.”

15 March 2016  State’s Kirby on Second Anniversary of Russia’s Attempted Annexation of Crimea  Today, as Russia’s occupation of Crimea enters its third year, we reaffirm our commitment to a united, sovereign Ukraine. The United States does not recognize Russia’s “referendum” of March 16, 2014 or its attempted annexation of Crimea, which violates international law.

We will not accept the redrawing of borders by force in the 21st century. Sanctions related to Crimea will remain in place as long as the occupation continues. We again call on Russia to end that occupation and return Crimea to Ukraine.
Foreign Policy

15 March 2016 Secretary Kerry’s Remarks With Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze   (On Syria and Kerry’s forthcoming meeting with President Putin)    “But today, as we mark the fifth anniversary of the start of this horrific war, we may face the best opportunity that we’ve had in years to end it. The cessation of hostilities has obviously not been perfect. I don’t know one that ever has been. And we have raised and we will continue to raise our serious concerns about violations when they occur. But it’s also clear that the violence in Syria is down, very significantly reduced. And access to humanitarian assistance is up, though it still could be increased even further. The cessation of hostilities is now going into its third week, defying most predictions, and far more importantly, improving the lives of Syrians on a daily basis.

And over the weekend, last weekend, I met with many of our international partners in this effort. I met in Saudi Arabia and I met in France in order to discuss the path forward. I will be traveling next week to Moscow to meet with President Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in order to discuss how we can effectively move the political process forward and try to take advantage of this moment.”


Human Rights / U.S. Global Strategy To Empower Adolescent Girls 

Secretary behind a lectern
Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Launch Event for U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls

15 March 2016  Secretary Kerry Launches U.S. Global Strategy To Empower Adolescent Girls  U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced $47 million in new initiatives during the launch of the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls at the Department of State today.

In his remarks, Secretary Kerry said that $40 million from PEPFAR’s $85 million DREAMS Innovation Challenge will help girls access and remain in secondary school. This is an important part of PEPFAR’s work to prevent HIV/AIDS in adolescent girls and young women, since access to education can decrease the likelihood of infection.

The remaining $7 million will go to empowering adolescent girls in Afghanistan, where the United States will fund efforts to change perceptions about early and forced marriage at the district and community level.

To implement the strategy, the Department will focus on three priorities: legal and policy frameworks that protect adolescent girls’ rights, including access to education; early and forced marriage and its consequences for married girls; and female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C). These priorities also reflect the Department’s commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more information on this announcement, please contact SGWI_PA@state.gov.  For more information on the State Department’s work on global women’s issues, visit here.

15 March 2016 Secretary Kerry’s Remarks at Launch of U.S. Strategy for Adolescent Girls Event     This plan brings together resources and expertise from all of the agencies that are represented here, and more.  And at State, we intend to focus on three particular areas.  First, we’re going to work to promote laws and policies abroad that empower adolescent girls and protect their rights.
Second, we will work to address early and forced marriage, a practice that too often prevents girls from developing their social and economic potential, and often, given the practices in certain parts of the world, winds up with young women being literally used, abused, and discarded and then left out in the world with obviously the worst of circumstances.

And finally, we will collaborate with government officials, NGOs, and community and religious leaders in order to educate local populations in order to end female genital mutilation.  And that is a practice which has no health benefit, it has no centrality to any religion whatsoever.  And in particular, I am pleased to announce that we intend to contribute to the UNFPA-UNICEF program to bring an end to this harmful, barbarian practice.


15 March 2016 Statement by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the Publication of New Regulatory Changes for Cuba Sanctions  As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, we have sought ways to increase opportunity for Americans and improve the lives of the Cuban people, including by opening the door to increased travel and commerce between our two countries. Among other changes, today the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce announced significant regulatory changes to make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, expand access to U.S. financial institutions and the U.S. dollar from Cuba, and expand the ability for Cubans living in the U.S. to earn a salary. These changes, coupled with the arrangement recently announced by the Departments of State and Transportation allowing up to 110 non-stop flights daily between the United States and Cuba, will significantly increase the ability of U.S. Citizens to travel to Cuba to directly engage with the Cuban people.


15 March 2016 Special Presidential Envoy McGurk Travels to Iraq   Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Brett McGurk arrived in Iraq today to meet with senior government and security officials from the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, including Prime Minister Abadi and IKR President Barzani. In all of his meetings, Mr. McGurk will discuss the Coalition’s ongoing support for Iraqi-led efforts to defeat ISIL, including plans for the further isolation of Mosul, as well as U.S. efforts to help address Iraq’s economic crisis, the situation in Syria, and other regional developments.

Portrait of General Scaparrotti
General Curtis M. Scaparrotti


13 March 2016 NATO announces nomination of General Curtis M. Scaparrotti as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO.int)  The North Atlantic Council approved the nomination of General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, United States Army, to the post of Supreme Allied Commander Europe.  General Scaparrotti is currently serving as Commander, United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, United States Forces Korea.

White House

15 March 2016 Press Briefing by the Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 3/14/2016   On the  release of Jason Rezaian; was PKK  behind Turkey terror attack; on the escalation in the type of violence and unpleasant activities on the presidential campaign trail; the upcoming Europe trip and if any lobbying  for the UK to stay in the EU will occur; taken question on the UK reproduced below:

“Q    Has Prime Minister Cameron or his government asked for help on this issue?  And does the President, whether in England or not, intend to weigh in more directly than you guys have so far, now that he’s said we think the UK is the strongest when they’re with the European Union?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, our position has been that the United States deeply values a strong ally in the United Kingdom as a part of the European Union.  And we’ve made that case on a number of occasions, and we’ll continue to make clear that that’s our point of view.  At the same time, we recognize that the British people are going to decide.  And Prime Minister Cameron has indicated that he would put this to a referendum, and that’s a referendum they’re holding at the end of June, I believe.  So we’re certainly entirely respectful of the process that the British people have established to consider this question.  And when asked, we haven’t hesitated to make our views known as well. But I don’t have any additional presidential-level comments to preview for you at this point.”