Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Secretary Kerry Travel
This week, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to France, the United Kingdom and Italy. In Paris, the Secretary will meet with representatives of the Arab League’s Arab Peace Initiative Follow-on Committee to discuss the Middle East Peace Process. Secretary Kerry will also hold a bilateral meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal. In the United Kingdom, the Secretary will attend the London 11 Ministerial Meeting to discuss progress toward convening the Geneva Conference on Syria. His Rome stop will include a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss negotiations with the Palestinians, and other regional issues, such as Iran and Syria. In Paris, London and Rome, Secretary Kerry will also meet with senior government officials.
While the U.S. government shutdown concluded last week, the decision had already been made to postpone this week’s International Ocean Conference. The conference would have addressed sustainable fisheries, marine pollution and ocean acidification – which are priorities for Secretary Kerry. The State Department confirmed the conference will be rescheduled.
The P5+1 Talks resumed with Iran last week in Geneva, Switzerland. The day before the Geneva meeting commenced, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-CA) said in a letter to President Barack Obama:
“While our country faces few national security challenges as grave as Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon, negotiations with Iran must be entered into only with the highest degree of caution over that government’s intentions.”
The chairman also urged the Administration to regularly consult with Congress.
Last week, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and James Risch (R-ID) introduced S. Res. 269 – a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on U.S. policy regarding possession of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities by Iran. While no congressional hearings on Iran have been announced for this week, it is anticipated Congress will hold hearings on Iran and the recent Geneva meeting. Meanwhile, the P5+1 will meet again with Iran in Geneva on November 7-8.
The United Nations (U.N.) has reportedly set up a support base in Cyprus for the chemical weapons team working in Syria. Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Sigrid Kaag of the Netherlands as Special Coordinator of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-U.N. Joint Mission to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The al Qaeda operative captured by U.S. special forces in Libya, Abu Anas al-Libi, pleaded not guilty last week to charges of helping plan the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa when he was arraigned in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) voiced his disapproval of the Administration’s decision to use civilian courts and civilian prisons for captured terrorists. He instead advocates utilizing the military prison at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for such detainees.
Last week, the State Department confirmed U.S. forces captured a senior Pakistan Taliban commander, Latif Mehsud. Afghan officials reported Mehsud was captured in eastern Afghanistan. The United States classifies Mehsud as a terrorist.
The United States is reportedly nearing the end of negotiations with Afghanistan for a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). A SOFA would allow some U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
This Week’s Hearings:
Thursday, October 24: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Next Steps on Egypt Policy.” Witnesses have yet to be named.
Thursday, October 24: The House Intelligence Committee is slated to hold a hearing on National Security Agency programs.