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Raising a Voice for Safer Workplaces

Factory in Burma

Factory in Burma

The UN recognizes April 28 as World Day for Safety and Health at Work. For many of us, work can be a fulfilling activity that gives us pride and that helps define our identity. For others, work is simply a means of survival. Some of the most vulnerable workers are defined by the work they do — work that may be dirty, difficult, or unnecessarily dangerous.

Protecting and promoting labor rights and improving working conditions of workers is central to my job as a Labor Officer at the U.S. Department of State, and I want to share the stories of individuals I’ve encountered in my work.

In Thailand, I met with union leaders who spent the last four years trying to help Burmese migrant workers injured in factories get access to compensation. Even permanent injury did not entitle these workers to justice from their employers.

On the other hand, there are stories that give you hope like the one told by a young trade unionist in Rangoon. Only a year after regulations went into effect allowing enterprise-level unions to form and register in the country, the young trade unionist stood on stage in front of more than a thousand people with his simple story: The boilers on the factory floor were close to the exits, which were narrow doors. At their midday break, workers filed past them to get fresh air and a bite to eat, but often were burned by coming into contact with the unprotected metal containers. Those of us in the union went and asked management to address the problem, explaining the risk it posed to workers’ safety. Within days, they had relocated the boilers and covered them with protective material.

Meanwhile, women workers in Jordan and Cambodia have improved access to healthcare and are more likely to be educated about their health, because of the efforts of apparel companies, international and local NGOs, international organizations, and unions to respond to workers’ concerns. The companies find that not only does this benefit their workers, but it also helps their bottom line — fewer absences, higher productivity, and an improved environment for conversation about women’s health.

In Brazil, unions representing construction workers raised serious concerns about safety in the building sector. They worked with the international labor community, the International Labor Organization, employers, and the Brazilian government to sign a “Pact for Decent Work” that aims to ensure respect for labor rights and prevent the use of forced and child labor.

Over almost three years working on these and other labor issues for the United States, I have come to realize that something fundamental separates the sets of stories above: workers’ voice. This at the core of our day-to-day work to promote labor rights. Safety and health at work is not just a technical issue, but is about having a voice and being empowered to use it. Where workers can identify problems; where they can negotiate with their managers for improvements; and where they can be confident that their governments will hold employers accountable, we see more transparency, greater respect for rights, and safer and more productive workplaces.

About the Author: Sarah M. Brooks serves as a Labor Officer in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

- Source: DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Deparment of State

 


Заявление о текущих вызовах в области безопасности в регионе ОБСЕ и взаимодействии ОБСЕ с Украиной

Господин председатель, в последние дни мы стали свидетелями тревожной эскалации ситуации в Украине, когда пророссийские боевики похитили в Славянске членов инспекционной группы Венского документа, руководящая роль в которой принадлежит Германии, а также их сопровождающих из числа украинских граждан. Кроме того, вчера в восточном городе Енакиево были задержаны два члена донецкой команды Специальной миссии наблюдателей. Они были освобождены через несколько часов; однако эти действия, которые являются вопиющим нарушением принципа взаимного доверия в этой Организации, неприемлемы и должны быть осуждены самым решительным образом всеми без исключения государствами-участниками, включая Российскую Федерацию.

В то время как наша собственная организация сталкивается с кризисом с заложниками, мы высоко оцениваем своевременную работу председательства на контртеррористической конференции в Интерлакене по соответствующим вопросам, таким как похищения с целью получения выкупа. Полностью поддерживаем сегодняшнее выступление президента Буркхальтера, в котором говорилось, что мы должны реализовать Резолюцию СБ ООН 2133, особенно по отношению к обеспечению освобождения заложников без каких-либо политических уступок. Нас обнадеживает освобождение шведского наблюдателя по медицинским причинам, но мы призываем Россию обеспечить безоговорочное и немедленное освобождение всей команды, руководимой Германией, и ее украинских сопровождающих.

Хотя мы приветствуем тот факт, что посол Келин публично выразил обеспокоенность в отношении команды инспекторов Венского документа, указав, что, по мнению России, “эти люди должны быть освобождены как можно скорее”, и что Россия принимает “все возможные меры” для освобождения военных наблюдателей, мы по-прежнему разочарованы тем, что высокопоставленные чиновники в Москве не осудили похищение – а также не потребовали немедленного освобождения команды. Кроме того, в сообщениях русскоязычной прессы по-прежнему неверно характеризуется работа команды. Российским властям совершенно необходимо немедленно внести коррективы в это освещение и четко заявить то, что, как мы все знаем, является правдой: инспекционные группы Венского документа не действуют секретно; их члены – это не “шпионы”. Эта команда действовала совершенно открыто, в соответствии с положениями Венского документа, которые Россия, как и все другие государства-участники ОБСЕ, согласилась выполнять, и выполняла в течение многих десятилетий.

Десять дней назад Соединенные Штаты, Европейский союз, Россия и Украина встретились в Женеве и согласовали первоначальные шаги по деэскалации напряженности, улучшению условий в плане безопасности и поиску политического решения конфликта, угрожающего суверенитету, единству и территориальной целостности Украины. Как четко заявили в Женеве госсекретарь Керри и Верховный представитель ЕС Эштон, и Россия, и Украина должны предпринять конкретные действия для выполнения своих обязательств.

Почти сразу – и несмотря на продолжающуюся незаконную так называемую “аннексию” Крыма – украинское правительство предприняло важные шаги по выполнению обязательств, принятых в Женеве. К ним относятся приостановление контртеррористических операций на праздничный пасхальный уикенд, внос законопроекта об амнистии на рассмотрение в парламент, обещание предоставить русскому языку особый статус в областях Украины, где он широко распространен, и подтверждение всеобъемлющего процесса конституционной реформы, который будет учитывать мнение всех украинцев из всех регионов Украины.

В то же время Россия не ударила пальцем о палец, чтобы помочь, и рука России просматривается за дальнейшими разрушительными и дестабилизирующими действиями. Простая реальность заключается в том, что невозможно урегулировать кризис, когда только одна сторона готова делать все необходимое, чтобы избежать конфронтации. Каждый день с момента достижения соглашения в Женеве мир становится свидетелем того, как две страны, Украина и Россия, демонстрируют совершенно различное понимание того, что значит выполнять свои международные обязательства.

Таким образом, в то время как правительство Украины добросовестно работает над воплощением в жизнь духа Женевского совместного заявления, Россия продолжает обманывать и дестабилизировать своего соседа. Несмотря на то, что ее пропаганда пытается скрыть правду, Россия продолжает финансировать, координировать и поддерживать вооруженное до зубов сепаратистское движение в Донецке. Как сказал в пятницу госсекретарь Керри, “мир знает, что мирные демонстранты не приходят вооруженные гранатометами и автоматическим оружием, пряча знаки различия на новенькой военной форме и говоря на диалектах, на которых говорят за тысячи миль оттуда, что знает любой местный житель. Мир знает, что оперативные сотрудники российских спецслужб, арестованные в Украине, оказались там не потому, что ошиблись поворотом на шоссе”.

Через десять дней после встречи в Женеве ясно, что из двух подписавших соглашение стран, Украины и России, только одна сторона, только одно государство, держит свое слово. А тем, кто хочет превратить черное в серое или найти в мелком шрифте топорные пути оправдать топорные действия, скажем напрямую – Женевское соглашение не открыто для интерпретации. Оно не расплывчато. Оно не субъективно. Документ, подписанный в Женеве так же прост, как и конкретен.

Соединенные Штаты неоднократно призывали Российскую Федерацию стремиться к дипломатическому решению этого кризиса. Сегодня уважаемые представители Украины и ЕС снова заявляли о своей продолжающейся приверженности краткосрочной реализации Женевского заявления. Соединенные Штаты разделяют эту приверженность. Однако реализация невозможна без Российской Федерации. Россия должна прекратить дестабилизацию Украины, начать уважать свои обязательства перед ОБСЕ и присоединиться к другим государствам-участникам в содействии достижению урегулирования продолжающегося кризиса.

Окно для перемены курса пока открыто, но закрывается. Если Россия выберет путь деэскалации, международное сообщество – все мы – будем это только приветствовать. Сегодня президент Обама объявил о вводе дополнительных санкций, потому что Россия до сих пор не решила двигаться вперед. Существует путь решения этой проблемы. Если Россия не примет незамедлительные меры по выполнению Женевского соглашения, мир добьется того, чтобы последствия для России лишь ухудшались. Благодарю вас, господин председатель.

- English translation: USOSCE on Current Security Challenges in the OSCE Area and OSCE Engagement with Ukraine

 


Background Conference Call on Ukraine Sanctions

MS. HAYDEN: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining. We’re here to talk about the new sanctions that will be going out today on Russia. We have senior administration officials to speak with you on background. There is no embargo on this call. Again, it’s a backgrounder; these are senior administration officials.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to our first senior administration official.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everybody, for joining the call. We just wanted to update you on the sanctions that are being imposed on Russia today. I’ll just give a brief opening and then hand it over to my Treasury colleagues to walk through the details.

First of all, this comes in the context of Russia continuing to violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and completely failing to meet its commitments under the agreement that was reached in Geneva. That agreement did provide a basis for de-escalation. Yet, over the course of the last days and weeks we have not seen the Russians follow through in urging separatists to stay back in eastern Ukraine to, for instance, lay down their arms, vacate buildings, and begin a process of dialogue and lead to a de-escalation.

Because of that failure, the President convened a call with several of his European counterparts over the weekend. And those consultations led to a very strong G7 statement over the weekend that found that Russia was not meeting their commitments, and therefore urged additional targeted sanctions to impose a cost on Russia.

Today, the United States is doing its part to move out on those sanctions. And as you’ve seen, this includes sanctions of a number of individuals, a substantial number of companies, as well as limits on exports of certain high-tech materials relevant to the Russian defense industry.

I would also just say that we’ve already seen that these sanctions and the isolation of Russia has had an impact, a substantial impact, on the Russian economy. We believe that with these additional steps, the impact on the Russian economy will only grow, just as Russia’s political isolation is growing because of its actions in violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

At the same time, it’s also important to note that we will be continuing to consult and coordinate with our partners about the types of targeted sanctions that we’re pursuing, but also we have additional options available to us should Russia further escalate the situation. For instance, should they move their troops into Ukraine across the border, we have made very clear through the G7 and with our European allies that very robust sectoral sanctions on the Russian economy could be imposed — will be imposed if we see that type of escalation.

With that, I will turn it over to my colleague to walk through the details of the sanctions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks. Good morning, everybody. I’ll basically discuss the sanctions imposed today. And as my colleague explained, these are in response to Russia’s continued destabilizing, provocative, and dangerous actions in the Ukraine.

Treasury today is imposing sanctions on seven Russia government officials and 17 entities under Executive Order 13661. This executive order, which is part of the administration’s broad, flexible, and powerful sanctions program directed at the situation in Ukraine, targets among others Russian government officials as well as those who provide critical support to — or derive critical support from senior Russian government officials, or so-called oligarchs or cronies.

Of note, in today’s set of sanctions are two key members of the Russian leadership’s inner circle. They are Igor Sechin, who’s the President and Chairman of the Management Board of Rosneft, Russia’s leading petroleum operation; and Sergey Chemezov, the Director General of Rostec, a very large industrial conglomerate in Russia. We are imposing sanctions on Sechin and Chemezov individually.

In addition, each of the 17 entities sanctioned today are affiliated with the oligarchs we designated a few weeks ago, on March 20th, including the Rotenberg brothers and Gennady Timchenko. Among these entities are Timchenko’s holding company, the Volga Group, and three banks — InvestCapitalBank, SMP Bank, and JSB Sobinbank.

The April 17th Geneva joint statement provided an opportunity for Russia and Ukraine to work together, supported by the OSCE, to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine and make progress towards a diplomatic solution.

As my colleague noted, it’s clear that the Ukrainian government at all levels has been following through on its commitments under the Geneva agreement. And as Secretary Kerry detailed in his remarks on Thursday, and as my colleague reiterated this morning, the government in Kyiv is taking concrete steps to fulfill its obligations under the Geneva agreement.

In stark contrast, Russia has done precisely nothing to fulfill its obligations — not even calling on those who have illegally seized buildings to relinquish control. To the contrary, Russia in word and deed has continued to provoke unrest in an illegitimate and unlawful effort to destabilize Ukraine. From the very outset of Russia’s illegitimate and unlawful actions in Ukraine, we have been clear: The United States, acting on its own and alongside our international partners, will impose increasing costs on Russia if it persists in its efforts to destabilize Ukraine and will hold Russia accountable for its provocative actions. Today’s steps underscore our commitment to this promise.

And we can see the impact of our actions in Russia. President Putin himself acknowledged last week that the sanctions are causing damage — his words — causing damage. Indeed, the facts speak for themselves. Already, this year, there has been a huge rush of capital out of Russia. The $60 billion in capital outflows from Russia this year exceed all the outflows last year. This is contributed to sharp declines in the value of Russian equities, which are down almost 15 percent this year, and the Russian ruble, which has depreciated almost 9 percent against the dollar since January 1st.

The Russian stock market is performing worst among major emerging market economies this year. And the ruble is also the worst performing currency among major emerging markets over the same period.

Our sanctions and the overall increase in uncertainty in the Russian economy have led investors to demand significantly higher risk premiums to hold Russian government debt, causing the country’s 10-year bond yields to increase nearly 175 basis points since the start of the year. That is worse performance than high-risk borrowers such as Greece and Portugal. Russia’s 10-year bond is now trading at about 9.7 percent, and things are so bad that the Russian government was forced to cancel a recent bond auction because of a lack of investor demand.

The Russian corporate sector is faring no better. In the first quarter of this year, bond issuance was down more than 70 percent compared to the same quarter last year. And some Russian companies have been unable to refinance maturing debt.

And to top things off, last Friday S&P downgraded Russia’s credit rating to BBB-, which is just one step above junk status. Overall, economists have lowered their expectations for Russia’s 2014 GDP growth, and the Russian Central Bank recently downgraded its own 2014 growth projection to less than 1 percent.

As the President has made clear, we continue to work very closely with our allies to increase the costs on Russia for its actions in Ukraine. On a daily basis we are coordinating with the European Union and other partners on increasing sanctions in response to Russia’s refusal to deescalate the situation and its provocative actions. As other speakers on this call will note, we expect the EU will announce additional sanctions today.

And one final point — we have at our disposal additional, even more powerful sanctions, including the ability for the Secretary of the Treasury to identify for sanctions certain sectors of the Russian economy, such as financial services or energy, and to sanction individuals and entities determined to operate in those sectors. We have not yet done so, and our preference is for the Russians to abide by their commitments in the Geneva agreement and deescalate the situation. But no one should forget that the President has put in place a sanctions program that gives us these tools.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Meanwhile, the violence in eastern Ukraine continues with Slovyansk becoming quickly the Bermuda Triangle or mafia central of eastern Ukraine. You all will have seen today that south of Slovyansk at the Kramatorsk Airport, there was another effort to seize that flight that was repelled by the Ukrainians. There was another Ukrainian servicemember shot, and a Mi-8 helicopter was fired at by an RPG, by militants.

In addition, the mayor of Kharkiv, the pro-Kyiv mayor was shot and seriously wounded by unknown assailants. He is in the hospital today for surgery. And also 30 pro-Russian separatists seized (inaudible) in Konstantinovka today, also at Donetsk Airport. And just to remind that we still have eight OSCE Vienna Document observers who are being held captive by militants, we believe in the basement of the Public Administration Building in Slovyansk, the same place where our American journalist was held and beaten.

You will have seen over the weekend that these guys were paraded on television like POWs, forced to make a statement to the press. There is broad belief that they have also been abused in captivity. And meanwhile, the Russians have the gall to blame this abuse of people who are in Ukraine at the government of Ukraine’s invitation and with diplomatic privileges and immunities on the inability of the Ukrainians to provide security. And as far as we can tell, Russia has done also virtually nothing to get their release. I’ll pause there.

Q Hi, guys. Thanks for doing the call. I appreciate it. Two things — can you say how closely aligned this list today will be with the EU? What will be the difference between this list and theirs, and if, in fact, does it make a difference that they might not be the same people; for instance, Sechin obviously has these joint ventures with Exxon Mobil. And then, secondly, there has been talk that Alexey Miller was on one of the draft lists at least. What was the thinking going on in not including him on the final list? Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Sure, I’ll say a couple of things and then let my colleagues add in. Well, first of all, we have been moving in concert and coordination with the Europeans since the beginning of this crisis, both in terms of our support for the Ukrainian government and also in terms of imposing costs on Russia. That was the case with previous rounds of sanctions. That was the case with the G7 statement over the weekend.

In terms of the lists that are published today, I expect there to be a divergence in the lists. They have not in the past matched up exactly, and it will continue to be the case given the different nature of our sanction regimes that we hit different targets. I do think it sends an important and powerful message of unity in the international community that we do move together — the United States and our European allies — in imposing costs.

Importantly, I’d also note that the most severe sanctions that we have in reserve should Russia further escalate the situation are the sectoral sanctions. And on that score, based on the conversations that the President has had both with the G7 and with European counterparts, we’re also confident that the Europeans are with us in their commitment to impose those sectoral sanctions should we see, for instance, Russian troops move across that border.

I don’t know if my colleagues want to add to that.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are in very close touch with the Europeans about sanctions in general. On sectoral sanctions, we and the Europeans have been both thinking internally about our options and discussing these options with each other. This process is intense, ongoing, and I’m confident that it will continue. So we will be ready if we need the sectoral sanctions.

Q Thanks for doing this, guys. I want to ask — first of all, there had been talk last week, particularly in Moscow, about some of the key banks, like Gazprombank and VEB being sanctioned. And now that they haven’t, some of their stock has rallied. And I want to get your response to those bankers who are feeling that these sanctions are weak, and also to the question of whether, if Putin hasn’t responded so far to sanctions, what makes you think he’s going to respond to these?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll take the second question first, and then my colleague can take the first question.

Look, we’ve been very clear that we’re going to keep ratcheting up the costs on Russia for continued destabilization and violation of international law on Ukraine. And clearly, President Putin’s calculus has not changed sufficiently because Russia has continued its destabilizing actions and has completely failed to live up to the commitments that they agreed to in Geneva.

So we don’t expect there to be an immediate change in Russian policy. What we need to do is to steadily show the Russians that there are going to be much more severe economic pain, much more severe political isolation, and frankly, that Russia stands far more to lose continuing these actions over time than pursuing de-escalation. And ultimately, we believe that that can affect Russia’s calculus over time and give them the incentive to deescalate this situation.

So, again, it’s important that we are ratcheting up this pressure to impose very concrete economic costs on the Russians through these types of sanctions. It’s also important that, together with the additional prospect of sectoral sanctions, Russia sees the dead end that it’s going down in Ukraine and, frankly, the fact that their interests will be severely compromised and set back in the world if they continue down this course. And that’s the purpose of this series of escalatory actions that we’ve taken in concert with our European allies.

You may want to take the first question.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Look, and I’ve seen articles where there’s been speculation and — armchair designations done by people outside thinking what we should and shouldn’t do. I would urge you all to pay attention to what we’re doing and not the wild speculation.

And what we’re doing is having a very significant impact. These are calibrated and firm moves that have, as I noted in my opening, had a significant impact on the Russian economy. It has worked against an economy that was already in a weak state to further exacerbate the weakness in the Russian economy. And every indicator shows, both on the public sector and the private sector in Russia, that they are feeling the heat from our actions.

Now, there may be daily fluctuations here and there, but the trend is unmistakable, and that’s that Russia is suffering from its actions in Ukraine as the market punishes Russia for this, and as the market responds to the sanctions that we’ve imposed and, frankly, the sanctions that we can impose. And just to emphasize one point that my colleague just made, we have at our disposal additional sanctions, very powerful sanctions that can target sectors of the Russian economy and entities within those sectors. And I think the deterrent value of that should not be underestimated.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just add to this that we have noted a distinct uptick in the last three days from major European capitals beginning to look very hard at sectorals in response to the egregious treatment of the Vienna Document monitors in Slavyansk, and that’s really been galvanizing — both the viciousness of their treatment and the fact that Russia has done nothing to restrain them.

Q Thanks very much for doing the call. Just to briefly — I’ve spoken to Ukrainian officials who are not happy with the degree of the sanctions, the degree of the pain so far. They’d like to have seen not only sector sanctions immediately, but also they’re looking for, as you know, more robust aid, including in the category of military aid. And I wonder if you could just react to that criticism.

And second, you mentioned about raising the cost if Russian troops crossed the border into eastern Ukraine, that the intention of these sanctions in effect deter that. And I just wonder, is there any intention at this point to reverse Russia’s annexation of Crimea? Or is Crimea, in effect, granted?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There’s a lot there. Let me just say a few things, Jim. First of all, with respect to Crimea, we’ve made very clear that we’re not going to recognize that annexation, and so have many of our allies around the world. The U.N. General Assembly overwhelmingly passed resolutions condemning that. And we’re just not going to recognize it. And there are sanctions that were put in place because of that and will continue. And that will continue to be our position that we don’t recognize the legitimacy of either the referendum or that annexation.

With respect to sectoral sanctions, number one, it’s important, as my colleague said, it’s important that there be a spectrum of options that we have so we can escalate if we see severe escalation by the Russians. So we have very powerful sectoral sanctions that could allow us to inflict significant damage on the Russian economy.

At the same time, clearly you have to weigh those options and calibrate the pressure based on what we’re seeing in Ukraine, based on the fact that there are considerations as to how you manage the impact on the global economy, how you prepare those sanctions together with the Europeans. So that’s what we’re doing in terms of having those sectoral sanctions prepared over time, discussing with the Europeans what the triggers for that might be. We’ve been very clear that one trigger would be a Russian invasion across the border.

So we do have those available. But simply to cock every bullet in our gun in the current context in our view does not make sense. It’s better to ratchet up the pressure while having further deterrent value in these more robust sectoral sanctions that have been prepared together with the Europeans.

With respect to assistance, we’ve been talking to the Ukrainian government in Kyiv every single day. We have committed a billion dollars in a loan guarantee; we have committed tens of millions of dollars in additional technical assistance. We’ve committed nonlethal military assistance.

With respect to lethal assistance, the President addressed this today. The fact is there’s not going to be any scenario where the Ukrainian military is brought quickly up to parity with the Russian military. This is not the type of action that usually has the most significant deterrent on Russia’s calculus. We have a far greater ability to affect Russia and impose a cost on Russia by imposing sanctions rather than by that type of provision of assistance.

Similarly, with the Ukrainian government, we believe that the best thing we can do is help them stabilize their economy and prepare for very important elections this May. And that’s what has been a focal point of the United States and our allies.

So we’re confident that we have a policy that is effectively calibrated, that is imposing a sufficient cost, that has also an additional escalation that we can pursue up to sectoral sanctions, and that provides the best type of support for the Ukrainian government. And I think that we do need to recognize that there’s not a silver bullet of some type of military assistance that is going to level this playing field in this very difficult situation. We have to be using all of these tools at our disposal to support the Ukrainians and to impose costs on the Russians.

I don’t know if any of my colleagues want to address.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I want to underscore what my colleague said about non-recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. That is not simply rhetoric. We have the ability under our executive orders and the intention of imposing further sanctions. On April 11th [we] imposed a sanction on one of Crimea’s major economic firms, Chernomorneftegaz, an energy company which had been illegally expropriated by the separatists in Crimea. We are looking at additional steps. And we’ll make it clear that our non-recognition of the illegal annexation is not rhetorical vitriol. And we’re working with the Europeans as well on this.

Q Hi, thanks so much for having this. I’m just wondering, are there any new levels of sanctions between what we’re seeing now, which are senior officials and kind of crony financiers and smaller companies, and the sector sanctions? In other words, would it ever be ratcheted up to publicly traded companies, major billionaire oligarchs, et cetera? Or will we just see more Russian officials, more state-controlled companies, or move all the way up to sector sanctions if there’s a troop invasion in Ukraine? Thanks so much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we have designed is a sanctions program that is scalable, is flexible, and we can impose sanctions on a range of actors from the ones we’ve done already through the big state-owned companies that you’ve referenced.

I don’t think it serves anyone’s interest to preview what the next step might be. But I think the important point is that we have available to us a range of options. The sanctions that we’ve imposed particularly on those close to Putin have significant impact not only on them, but on the companies that they are in complete control of. And we are going to continue to calibrate our steps in response to the situation on the ground. I’ll leave it at that.

Q Hi, thanks very much. Thanks again for this. I’m calling from Moscow. I wanted to ask two questions — one about — a very simple one. You mentioned in the explanation that a number of these companies help provide services to a senior official of the government of the Russian Federation. I’d like to ask who that senior official is. And the other question — this situation with OSCE observers and the increasing possibility of sectoral sanctions from Europe, has there been any thought given to economic aid or any other policy changes to help Europe weather any sort of economic impact from any broader sanctions that they would do that would affect the European economy more than the American one?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll just make one comment. On your second question, I think everybody recognizes that if we move to sectoral sanctions, that would have an impact on the global economy and on national economies. And so, again, there has been discussion and dialogue about what the respective impacts would be. I think that everybody recognizes that it’s important that we do this together in part so that there’s a shared commitment, but also one nation isn’t bearing a significantly greater share of the burden as against other nations with different interests in different sectors.

We have had dialogues, for instance, around energy. We saw the energy ministerial between the U.S. and the EU in discussions on ways of over time certainly diversifying the European energy picture. And you’ve seen us already approve licenses for exports of natural gas to Europe, so that’s one example of an area where there has been initial discussion with the Europeans set against the backdrop of the prospect of sectoral sanctions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Each of the 17 entities is being designated for being owned or controlled by a person who has been previously designated for either providing support to or deriving support from senior Russian government officials. So they’re all in one way or another affiliated with either the Rotenberg brothers or Timchenko. The seven individuals who are being designated today are all being designated for being Russian government officials. But of course, everybody knows who Sechin and Chemezov are, and the role that they play in both the Russian economy and, frankly, in the leadership circle in Russia.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just say that (inaudible) there is a conversation about possible counterbalancing and compensatory measures for those states who might have to take it on the chin more if and when sectoral sanctions come on. So they’re talking about helping each other internally there. But, again, as our colleague said, the key here is to do this in a way that balances the equities within Europe.

Q Yes, thank you very much. I would like to ask you about the change in defense export regulation; says that it will halt pending applications for export of defense articles to Russia. I’m wondering if you could explain what are those pending defense applications? How many are there? What exactly are the items they’re asking for? And also, do you have a view on NATO and defense sales to Russia, including the French sale of the amphibious warship, the Mistral? Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can address the first part of the question. Between the Department of Commerce and the Department of State, we have quite a few license applications pending, because we put them all on hold since the beginning of March. We are now in the process of going through them and really scrutinizing them to see which ones involve technology that the Russian defense industrial complex is in need of, and those are the ones that will be denied. So we’re in the process of going through –

Q Do you have any examples at all?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, generally, I can tell you in the area of microelectronics is one particular area.

Q And on the Mistral?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That is out of my lane. Maybe one of my colleagues can answer.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I will simply say there that, again, in the context of evaluating what kind of sectoral sanctions might be necessary, the Europeans are looking at defense industry, including this. The French themselves have made a number of comments in regard to the future of the sale, and I would refer you to those comments.

Q Thank you, and thank you for doing the call. All of this of course is very regrettable. And from the Russian point of view, as you understand, all of this comes back to the illegitimacy of the current government of Kyiv. So my question to you is if you are satisfied with the way the situation has evolved, and whether you have any regrets? With the benefit of hindsight, would you have done something differently, not to bring this to this point?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’d just make a couple of comments there. Look, we have been focused on one thing and one thing only for the many months that the situation in Ukraine has been unstable, and that is that the people of Ukraine should have a government that reflects their aspirations; that the country of Ukraine should be able to make its own decisions about its associations, and that there need not be conflict and destabilization; that Ukraine could have productive relations with both Europe and Russia, as well as the United States. And those principles have guided us throughout this series of events.

Again, in terms of the government in Kyiv, since President Yanukovych packed up and left town, again, we believe that the government has shown extraordinary responsibility in terms of their commitment to both set a path towards elections in May, which provide a very important opportunity for the people of Ukraine to be heard on their future; in terms of tackling the economic situation in partnership with the international community so that they are working to stabilize the economy and improve the situation for the people of Ukraine; but also, in terms of being willing to engage in dialogue within their country and with Russia about the pathway to deescalate this situation.

And since the Geneva agreement was reached, we saw the government in Kyiv take important steps to live up to their end of the bargain in terms of addressing the nation and stressing the necessity of national unity; in terms of their commitment to move forward with an amnesty law so that those who lay down their arms and leave buildings know that they have amnesty; but also to initiate a dialogue around decentralization of power so that they can assure that the rights and interests of people in eastern and southern Ukraine are met within the context of Ukraine’s future and that that was a dialogue that could include Russia and the European Union and the United States as well.

And so we saw the Ukrainian government living up to their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, Russia did not live up to their end of the bargain — again, not just in completely failing to use their influence to encourage groups to lay down their arms and leave buildings, but also, outrageously, to be associated in any way with the types of individuals who have taken key diplomats hostage. That is not something that should happen in the 21st century, that a diplomatic monitoring mission can’t even operate in eastern Ukraine in the context of an agreement that was reached among a number of members of the United Nations Security Council.

So — have been clear that the government in Kyiv has lived up to their end of the bargain and that Russia has not. So we have no regrets whatsoever about supporting the Ukrainian people’s right to make decisions about their own future. I do believe that if Russia continues down this path, they will severely regret the decision to take a path of international isolation, politically and economically. And ultimately, that’s what we have to continue to show, which is that we recognize that there’s no immediate solution to this crisis, even though there is a pathway that was set in Geneva. We recognize that Russia cares deeply about its interests in that part of the world, and we have sought to address those interests through dialogue and a process of de-escalation. But at the same time, over the next several weeks and months, if Russia continues down this path, we believe ultimately it’s going to find itself in a position of much bigger isolation internationally, much bigger economic pain than they were before and that they have been at any time in the recent past.

I don’t know if anybody else wants to have any final thoughts.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just add two pieces here. First, with regard to the legitimacy of the current government in Kyiv, just to remind that it was ratified by a vote in the Duma and supported by every single political party across the spectrum with the exception of a communist — so more than 80 percent of Rada supported it.

Second, just to say if you care about the choice of Ukrainians across the spectrum in their own future, the next major decision point there is the May 25th elections, where you have more than 20 candidates representing every political color in the Ukrainian spectrum running for office. And while we negotiated the Geneva Accord, we wanted the U.S., the EU, and Ukraine to add a line expressing our support for free, fair elections on May 25th so that the Ukrainian people could make that leadership choice in their own future. And Russia refused to add that line and has continued to pass doubt on whether elections are possible or advisable. So my question to Russia is how do you aspire to get legitimacy in government if not by elections. Thanks.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And I’d add just one final point, which is that from the sanctions standpoint we have been clear from the outset that the preference is to see the situation deescalate in a fashion that’s been described. But if Russia persists on destabilizing Ukraine, persists on fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, or takes additional steps with respect to Ukraine, we have at our disposal additional tools, including the ones that we have used today, as well as those that we have in our pocket that can ratchet up and continue, frankly, to have very significant impact on the Russian economy.

And so I think another question to be asked in Russia is whether the cost to the Russian economy as a whole, to the Russian people, is worth it when there is a clear and legitimate path to deescalate the situation in Ukraine.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, thanks, everybody, for joining the call. We’ll continue to keep you posted on these matters in the days ahead.

MS. HAYDEN: And just as a reminder, this call was on background. Those were senior administration officials. Thanks, everyone, for joining us.

- Source: whitehouse.gov

 


White House Press Secretary on Ukraine

The United States has taken further action today in response to Russia’s continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine’s democracy and threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. At the contact group meeting in Geneva on April 17, 2014, Russia, Ukraine, the United States, and the European Union decided on a number of steps to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine, including refraining from further violence or provocative acts. Since April 17, Russia has done nothing to meet its Geneva commitments and in fact has further escalated the crisis. Russia’s involvement in the recent violence in eastern Ukraine is indisputable.

The United States made clear it would impose additional costs on Russia if it failed live up to its Geneva commitments and take concrete steps to deescalate the situation in Ukraine. Consequently, today the United States is imposing targeted sanctions on a number of Russian individuals and entities and restricting licenses for certain U.S. exports to Russia. The Department of the Treasury is imposing sanctions on seven Russian government officials, including two members of President Putin’s inner circle, who will be subject to an asset freeze and a U.S. visa ban, and 17 companies linked to Putin’s inner circle, which will be subject to an asset freeze. In addition, the Department of Commerce has imposed additional restrictions on 13 of those companies by imposing a license requirement with a presumption of denial for the export, re-export or other foreign transfer of U.S.-origin items to the companies. Further, today the Departments of Commerce and State have announced a tightened policy to deny export license applications for any high-technology items that could contribute to Russia’s military capabilities. Those Departments also will revoke any existing export licenses that meet these conditions.

The international community has been unified in its position that Russia must cease its illegal intervention and provocative actions in Ukraine. The United States, working closely with its partners, remains prepared to impose still greater costs on Russia if the Russian leadership continues these provocations instead of de-escalating the situation, consistent with its Geneva commitments. The executive order signed by the President on March 20, 2014, authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to impose sanctions on individuals and entities operating in key sectors of the Russian economy, such as financial services, energy, metals and mining, engineering, and defense. If there is further Russian military intervention in Ukraine, we are prepared to sanction entities under this authority.

- Source: whitehouse.gov

 


White House Press Secretary on Mass Trials and Sentencing in Egypt

The United States is deeply troubled by the continued use of mass trials and sentencing in Egypt, and particularly by today’s death sentence against 683 defendants. Today’s verdict, like the one last month, defies even the most basic standards of international justice. The Egyptian government has the responsibility to ensure that every citizen is afforded due process, including the right to a fair trial in which evidence is clearly presented, and access to an attorney. While judicial independence is a vital part of democracy, this verdict cannot be reconciled with Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law. Egyptian leaders must take a stand against this illogical action and dangerous precedent, recognizing that the repression of peaceful dissent will fuel the instability and radicalization that Egypt says it wishes to prevent.

We urge the Egyptian government to end the use of mass trials, reverse this and previous mass sentences, and ensure that every citizen is afforded due process. Since the January 25 Revolution, the Egyptian people have aspired to be represented by a government that rules justly, respects their dignity, and provides economic opportunities.

The United States supports these aspirations and wants Egypt’s transition to succeed. A fair and transparent criminal justice system free of intimidation and political retribution is an important part of any democracy, and the Egyptian people deserve no less.

- Source: whitehouse.gov

 


Readout of National Security Advisor Rice’s Meeting with Malaysian Opposition Leaders

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice meets with Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim, Dato Mustafa Ali, and Lim Guan Eng.

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice meets with Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim, of the opposition Malaysian People's Justice Party, Dato Mustafa Ali, Secretary General of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (left) and Lim Guan Eng, Secretary General of the Democratic Action Party at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 28, 2014.

Today, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met with three top leaders of the Malaysian political opposition to hear their views on the situation in Malaysia and their efforts to press for greater democracy, transparency, and reform. Ambassador Rice underscored that the President’s historic visit to Malaysia has been an important opportunity to continue the transformation of the relationship between our two countries–but that even as we deepen our cooperation with the Malaysian government, we are looking to expand our engagement with all of Malaysia, including civil society, industry, students, and participants from across the political spectrum.

Ambassador Rice reiterated the President’s message that countries that welcome the contributions, and uphold the human rights of all their citizens, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, race or religion are ultimately more prosperous and more successful. She also shared the United States’ view that it is critical for Malaysia to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently, and apolitically in order to promote confidence in Malaysia’s democracy and judiciary.

Ambassador Rice emphasized to Mr. Anwar that the United States has followed his case closely, and that the decision to prosecute him and the trial have raised a number of concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts.

Ambassador Rice told the opposition leaders that the United States will continue to raise our concerns about issues of political freedom, the basic universal rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association, and religious liberty–as well as the need to respect and protect the rights of all people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

Finally, Ambassador Rice conveyed deep condolences on the passing of democracy and civil rights activist Mr. Karpal Singh.

Participants:

  • Anwar Ibrahim (Mr. Anwar), Leader of the Opposition, chairman of the People’s Justice Party
  • Lim Guan Eng (Mr. Lim), Leader of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and opposition Member of Parliament
  • Mustafa Ali (Mr. Mustafa), Secretary General of the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) and opposition Member of Parliament
National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice meets with Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim, Dato Mustafa Ali, and Lim Guan Eng

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice meets with Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim, of the opposition Malaysian People's Justice Party, Dato Mustafa Ali, Secretary General of the Pan Malaysian Islamic Party, and Lim Guan Eng, Secretary General of the Democratic Action Party at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 28, 2014.

 


John Kerry On Support for Israel

For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel, I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.

I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe.

First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.

Second, I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.

- Source: http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/04/225326.htm

 


Ambassador Power at a Security Council Debate on Security Sector Reform

Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for your briefing and for your constant efforts to enhance the UN’s support for Security Sector Reform. I also want to congratulate you, Mr. President, Mr. Minister, for organizing this debate on a topic that is central to the Council’s role in preserving international stability and peace. I applaud Nigeria’s leadership on this issue.

My government looks forward to the adoption this afternoon of the Council’s first resolution on the subject, which spells out the need to strengthen our collective commitment to improve governance, with an emphasis on security structures that are better designed, more capable, and more fully respectful of public needs and individual rights.

We all know that basic security is a fundamental civic need. Without it, families live in fear, economic investments are not made, and the rules by which a society can live in harmony are not enforced. Further, the lack of effective security at the national level has harmful transnational impacts. A state without security is a state where terrorists and criminals will thrive, the smugglers of illegal arms and narcotics will base their operations, internal strife may generate a flood of refugees, corruption runs rampant and shortages of food and other resources lead to humanitarian disaster. We cannot forget that public security is a prerequisite for economic and social well-being. Freedom from fear is critical to achieve freedom from want.

It is highly appropriate, therefore, that the United Nations do all it can in partnership with governments and other international actors to support the establishment of effective security structures. This task is especially relevant when a country is in the process of recovery from conflict. The absence of credible security sector reform has had dramatic consequences for such societies. For example, in Liberia, inadequate management of the security sector contributed to a resumption of civil conflict in the mid-90s. The transition from weak or non-existent security institutions to ones that are viable and strong is never easy. That is why Security Sector Reform has become a more important part of UN efforts in post-conflict rebuilding. The creation of effective, accountable, rights-respecting, and sustainable security structures that respond to national needs and priorities is critical to forestall a return to violence. It is also an essential ingredient for the successful exit of UN peacekeeping and special political missions. Last month, the UN was able to conclude twenty years of peacekeeping and political activities in Sierra Leone, in part because improved local security institutions were in place. And Sierra Leone now contributes forces to the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Too often, approaches to SSR are limited to base training or the building up of individual security units and fail to create security institutions that can effectively manage national forces and be responsive to the complex needs of societies. Reforms to the security sector, for example in places like Mali and the Central African Republic, have to be nested within broader political reforms aimed at national reconciliation and transitional justice. In places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is imperative that Security Sector Reform include not only training in military tactics, but also in responding to threats to civilians and guarding against sexual violence in conflict.

In this connection, my government welcomes the development of the Integrated Technical Guidance Notes, drafted by the Security Sector Reform Task Force and including guidance on such critical issues as national ownership, gender-responsiveness, and consistency with democratic principles. This guidance should give rise to a UN system-wide training regimen.

We support the UN’s work with host governments on strategic planning, intra-national dialogues, and the sharpening of oversight capacity. We appreciate the UN’s commitment to acquire the diverse expertise needed to implement its Security Sector Reform programs in countries with specialized requirements, and we’ve seen the benefits of this in the rapid deployment of support to UN missions such as that in Somalia.

Finally, Mr. Secretary-General, we firmly endorse both your emphasis on national ownership of the SSR process and the need for appropriate SSR capacities within UN missions. We will take these imperatives into account when formulating future mandates for UN peacekeeping and political operations. We also share your expressed desire to build stronger partnerships between the UN, regional and sub-regional organizations to support Security Sector Reform in countries recovering from conflict and undergoing transitions.

In closing, I want to thank you again, Mr. President, for presiding over this session and the Secretary-General for his leadership and guidance. Security Sector Reform is one of many topics that come before this Council where the problems are easy to identify yet extremely difficult to solve. We know what a good security system looks like, but we also know that creating one involves a multitude of variables and requires a major investment of energy, resources, and time. Without a strong and enduring political commitment by the state itself, international efforts cannot succeed. But where national partners truly desire progress, we must do all we can to assist them in that quest. Lasting international peace and security and reliable respect for human rights around the world will not be possible without additional meaningful progress on Security Sector Reform.

Thank you all.

- Source: U.S. Mission to the UN

 


U.S. Expands Export Restrictions on Russia

Today, in response to Russia’s continued actions in southern and eastern Ukraine, the United States is implementing additional restrictive measures on defense exports to Russia. Accordingly, the Department of State is expanding its export restrictions on technologies and services regulated under the U.S. Munitions List (USML).

Effective immediately, the Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) will deny pending applications for export or re-export of any high technology defense articles or services regulated under the U.S. Munitions List to Russia or occupied Crimea that contribute to Russia’s military capabilities. In addition, the Department is taking actions to revoke any existing export licenses which meet these conditions. All other pending applications and existing licenses will receive a case-by-case evaluation to determine their contribution to Russia’s military capabilities.

The United States will continue to adjust its export licensing policies toward Russia, as warranted by Russia’s actions in Ukraine. We urge Russia to honor the commitments it made in Geneva on April 17 to deescalate the situation in Ukraine.

- Source: state.gov

 


Egyptian Court Sentencing Recommendations

The United States is deeply concerned by today’s Egyptian court actions related to another mass trial and preliminary death sentences as well as the banning of the April 6 Youth Movement activities. Today’s preliminary death sentences against 683 defendants and the upholding of death sentences against 37 defendants from a March 25 decision are unconscionable.

As the Secretary has said, it is impossible to believe that such proceedings could satisfy even the most basic standards of justice, let alone meet Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law. We again urge Egyptian authorities to remedy the situation and reverse these court rulings and ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases. We continue to urge the Egyptian Government to suspend future mass trials of Egyptians.

Today’s decision by a court of urgent matters to ban the activities of The April 6 Youth Movement is also troubling. Supporters of the movement were at the forefront of the January 25, 2011 revolution that overthrew former president Mubarak, and the Government of Egypt must allow for the peaceful political activism that the group practices if Egypt’s interim Government intends to transition to democracy, as it has committed itself to do.

These court decisions run counter to the most basic democratic principles and foster the instability, extremism, and radicalization that Egypt’s interim Government says it seeks to resolve. We urge the Egyptian Government to demonstrate – through actions rather than words – its support for the universal human rights and freedoms and democratic, accountable governance that the Egyptian people continue to demand.

- Source: state.gov

 
 

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