Update on U.S. Withdrawal from the World Health Organization

3 Sep

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

The United States has long been the world’s most generous provider of health and humanitarian assistance to people around the world.  This assistance is provided with the support of the American taxpayer with the reasonable expectation that it serve an effective purpose and reach those in need.

Unfortunately, the World Health Organization has failed badly by those measures, not only in its response to COVID-19, but to other health crises in recent decades.  In addition, WHO has declined to adopt urgently needed reforms, starting with demonstrating its independence from the Chinese Communist Party.

When President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from that organization, he made clear that we would seek more credible and transparent partners.

That withdrawal becomes effective on July 6, 2021, and since the President’s announcement, the U.S. government has been working to identify partners to assume the activities previously undertaken by WHO.

Today, the United States is announcing the next steps with respect to our withdrawal from the WHO and the redirection of American resources.  This redirection includes reprogramming the remaining balance of its planned Fiscal Year 2020 assessed WHO contributions to partially pay other UN assessments.

In addition, through July 2021, the United States will scale down its engagement with the WHO, to include recalling the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailees from WHO headquarters, regional offices, and country offices, and reassigning these experts.  U.S. participation in WHO technical meetings and events will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

 

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Secretary Pompeo to Participate in Virtual U.S.-ASEAN, East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, Mekong-U.S. Partnership Foreign Ministers Meetings September 9-11

2 Sep

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

Secretary Pompeo looks forward to meeting with his ASEAN counterparts and Foreign Ministers from across the Indo-Pacific region September 9-11 in the ASEAN-related Ministerial Meetings.

On September 9, Secretary Pompeo will participate in the virtual East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ meeting.  The EAS is the region’s premier leaders-led forum on political and security issues.  The Secretary will address U.S. priorities in the Indo-Pacific and share details on our efforts to support a free and open region based on principles of sovereignty and pluralism.

On September 9, Secretary Pompeo will join his ASEAN counterparts for the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial meeting.  The Secretary will highlight progress on the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership and support for ASEAN and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

On September 11, Secretary Pompeo will co-chair the inaugural Mekong-U.S. Partnership Ministerial Meeting and launch the Mekong-U.S. Partnership with the Foreign Ministers of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the ASEAN Secretary-General.  The Partnership will expand on cooperation begun in 2009 under the Lower Mekong Initiative by strengthening the autonomy, economic independence, and sustainable development of the Mekong partner countries.

On September 11, Secretary Pompeo will also participate in the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, the region’s oldest and largest political-security forum.  The Secretary will reiterate the importance of ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and highlight U.S. efforts and investments to advance the Women, Peace, and Security agenda in the Indo-Pacific region.

 

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Taiwan’s Removal of Restrictions on U.S. Exports of Beef and Pork

28 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

We welcome President Tsai Ing-Wen’s August 28 statement that Taiwan will move quickly to lift restrictions on imports of U.S. pork and beef.  We look forward to the timely implementation of these actions, which will provide greater access for U.S. farmers to one of East Asia’s most vibrant markets, and for Taiwan consumers to high-quality U.S. agricultural products.  President Tsai’s vision and leadership in removing these long-standing barriers open the door to greater economic and trade cooperation between the United States and Taiwan.

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United States Continues To Call for Justice and Accountability in Burma

25 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

Three years after Burma’s security forces launched brutal attacks against hundreds of thousands of Rohingya men, women, and children, the United States reiterates its call for justice for victims and accountability for those responsible.  In addition, in the face of escalating fighting in Rakhine State, we urge a cessation of violence, dialogue, renewed efforts to protect local communities, and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance.  The United States remains concerned over the killing of members of local communities and displacement of thousands, which undermines prospects for the voluntary return of refugees and internally displaced persons and erodes prospects for peace.

We urge authorities in Burma to establish conditions conducive to the safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced persons, and to deepen efforts to implement recommendations from the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.  Since 2017, the United States has provided more than $951 million to ease the humanitarian suffering of all affected by the crisis in Burma and Bangladesh.  We deeply appreciate Bangladesh’s continued generosity in hosting more than 860,000 Rohingya.  We call on other nations to ensure continued humanitarian support to Rohingya and to deepen efforts to resolve the crisis.

The United States has taken strong actions to promote justice for victims and accountability for those responsible for atrocities.  Those actions include imposing financial sanctions and visa restrictions on top military leaders and units linked to serious human rights abuses,  supporting UN investigation mechanisms, and encouraging Burma to participate fully in International Court of Justice (ICJ) proceedings and to comply with court orders.  We appreciate the sustained commitment of the international community to hold the perpetrators of these atrocities to account.  Much more remains to be done.

The United States will continue to partner with the people of Burma as they work to overcome the legacy of authoritarian rule, expand democracy, and achieve peace.

 

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President Erdogan’s Meeting with Hamas Leadership

25 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

The United States strongly objects to Turkish President Erdogan hosting two Hamas leaders in Istanbul on August 22.  Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S and EU and both officials hosted by President Erdogan are Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The U.S. Rewards for Justice Program is seeking information about one of the individuals for his involvement in multiple terrorist attacks, hijackings, and kidnappings.

President Erdogan’s continued outreach to this terrorist organization only serves to isolate Turkey from the international community, harms the interests of the Palestinian people, and undercuts global efforts to prevent terrorist attacks launched from Gaza.  We continue to raise our concerns about the Turkish government’s relationship with Hamas at the highest levels.  This is the second time President Erdogan has welcomed Hamas leadership to Turkey this year with the first meeting occurring February 1.

 

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Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to Israel, Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates

23 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will travel to Israel, Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates August 23-28.  He will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem to discuss regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence, establishing and deepening Israel’s relationships in the region, as well as cooperation in protecting the U.S. and Israeli economies from malign investors.  In Sudan, the Secretary will meet with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sovereign Council Chair General Abdel Fattah el-Burhan to discuss continued U.S. support for the civilian-led transitional government and express support for deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.  The Secretary will then travel to Manama to meet with Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.  He will conclude his trip in the United Arab Emirates, where he will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi to discuss the historic Abraham Accords agreement with Israel and regional issues.

The U.S. commitment to peace, security, and stability in Israel, Sudan, and among Gulf countries has never been stronger than under President Trump’s leadership.

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Anniversary of Assad’s Brutal Chemical Weapons Attack on Ghouta

21 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

Today marks a somber anniversary in the history of the Syrian conflict. In the early morning hours of August 21, 2013, in the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta, the Assad regime killed more than 1,400 Syrians, many of them children, with the chemical agent sarin.

The United States estimates – conservatively – that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on its own people at least 50 times since the conflict began. On this day we remember and honor all of the victims of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks.

The United States remains determined to drive chemical weapons use to zero and hold the Assad regime accountable for the Ghouta attacks and the many other heinous acts it has perpetrated against the Syrian people, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The United States and other responsible nations took unprecedented action last month at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) by adopting a decision condemning Syria for its possession and use of chemical weapons and setting out measures Syria must take. Any failure by Syria to fulfill these measures by the deadline set will result in a recommendation to the OPCW’s full body, the Conference of States Parties, to take further action.

In addition, various authorities including Executive Order 13894 and the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act allow us to level travel restrictions and financial sanctions against those who enable the Assad regime to commit its litany of atrocities, including its use of chemical weapons. Yesterday, for example, we announced sanctions against six more of Assad’s financial, political, and military advisors. These are just some of the steps the United States is taking to promote accountability for the Assad regime and its enablers.

On this sobering day, we urge the international community to advance efforts to hold the Assad regime accountable for its heinous acts and to rid the world of the scourge of chemical weapons once and for all.

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Assassinations in Iraq

20 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

We are outraged by the targeted assassinations of civil society activists and attacks on protesters in Basrah and Baghdad.  It is unconscionable that the perpetrators of these horrible acts continue to act with impunity. Since October of last year, peaceful demonstrators have taken to the streets to urge government reform.  They have been met with threats and brutal violence.  Many have been gunned down. We strongly support the right of Iraqis to assemble peacefully and express themselves. We urge the Government of Iraq to take immediate steps to hold accountable the militias, thugs, and criminal gangs attacking Iraqis exercising their right to peaceful protest.

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Secretary Pompeo Travels to the United Nations

20 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

Secretary Pompeo will travel to New York City on August 20-21 to notify the United Nations Security Council that the United States will initiate the process to restore UN sanctions on Iran.  Thirty days after Secretary Pompeo’s notification, a range of UN sanctions will be restored, including the requirement that Iran suspend all enrichment-related activities.  This will also extend the 13-year arms embargo on Iran.

Secretary Pompeo’s notification to the Council follows its inexcusable failure last week to extend the arms embargo on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism.  Secretary Pompeo will also meet with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to discuss Iran and other issues of shared concern.

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Forty Years of the South African Development Community

17 Aug

Morgan Ortagus, Department Spokesperson

The United States Government congratulates the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. SADC’s goals of promoting regional cooperation and integration, economic growth, socio-economic development, and durable peace and security among its member states have never been more salient.

SADC has achieved notable successes promoting regional peace and security and economic development for the betterment of the SADC region’s most important resource — its people. SADC’s enduring support helped Lesotho negotiate vital government reforms and undertake a peaceful transition of political power. It continues to promote regional peace and security as demonstrated by its positive role in helping Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo resolve a longstanding border disagreement. And through its Southern African Power Pool, SADC is mobilizing resources to address energy shortages that threaten regional development and economic integration.

We encourage SADC to play a proactive role in promoting good governance, respect for human rights, and democratic values, and to hold its members accountable when they fall short. By insisting that all its members adhere to the same universal standards of human rights protection and respect for the rule of law, SADC can to send a powerful message that it intends to be a force for positive change for all citizens across southern Africa.

 

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