Latvia National Day

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

On behalf of the United States government, I wish to congratulate Latvia and its people on their centennial anniversary of independence.

We have enjoyed celebrating this special anniversary with you throughout 2018. We were particularly proud to host President Raimonds Vejonis and the presidents of Estonia and Lithuania at the White House in April for the U.S.-Baltic Centennial Summit and the U.S.-Baltic Business Forum. As President Trump noted, the Summit is a testament to the deep and lasting friendship between our countries.

We also welcomed performances by Latvian artists at the Kennedy Center, the Library of Congress, and Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. These celebrations in our nation’s capital were especially meaningful given that throughout the brutal Soviet occupation, the United States never ceased to recognize the sovereignty of Latvia.

Congratulations once again on your centennial and we look forward to the next 100 years of prosperity and growth in our U.S.-Latvian relationship.

Government Boosts Student Choice With Two-Year Degrees

Expansion of accelerated degrees set to create an unprecedented level of choice and flexibility in higher education

Sam Gyimah MP

Sam Gyimah MP

Hundreds of thousands of prospective students will be handed more choice than ever before over what they can study at university with the expansion of two-year degrees, the Universities Minister has announced today (Sunday 18 November), which will encourage new providers into the market and help students fast-track their way into the workforce.

It follows a consultation on the proposal to roll out shorter university courses – also known as accelerated degrees – creating an unprecedented level of choice and flexibility for people wanting to study in higher education, particularly mature students.

The UK higher education system is world-renowned, with four universities in the world’s top ten, and 18 in the top 100. Today’s announcement will build upon our world-class system by widening choice and creating more diversity for all students choosing to study at one of our institutions – part of the government’s drive to provide greater value for money for students.

The move will not just enable students on all such courses to graduate one year faster compared to standard degrees, but it will come as a welcome boost for businesses who will be able to access talented graduates a year earlier – most notably, but not limited to, subjects such as accountancy, financial management and law where accrediting bodies are developing accelerated courses for rapid graduate employment. Accelerated degrees are also expected to be made available for the vast majority of other courses too.

Accelerated degrees meet exactly the same quality assurance measures as standard degrees and will provide exactly the same level of qualification. For example, a two-year accelerated degree will condense 3-year degrees with 30 weeks teaching into 2 years with 45 weeks teaching.

As part of the consultation response, Sam Gyimah has also given the green light to new fees for accelerated courses. Students who opt for a two-year degree will save at least 20 per cent (£5,500) in total tuition costs compared to a standard three-year course. The new fee limits set out in the government’s response to the consultation, which will be published tomorrow, will be subject to parliamentary approval.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said:

Innovative solutions and ground-breaking opportunities remain the driving force behind our higher education system. We have created a successful, world-class system but this is all about making it even better.

Accelerated degrees not only make it possible for the next generation of students to access higher education and the undeniable financial, academic and personal benefits it has to offer, but drives the sector to offer dynamic choices that serve students’ needs.

Providers will be able to tap into a new market of students, particularly mature students, who were previously locked out of higher education. This provision creates a new arena of competition that delivers for students, taxpayers and employers.

Verity Davidge, Head of Education and Skills Policy at EEF, The Manufacturers’ Organisation said:

For manufacturers facing acute skills shortages, accelerated degrees widen the graduate talent pool, they are faster and also ensure sought after STEM graduates are able to enter the labour market more quickly. These degrees will also be attractive to learners, who will find themselves with less student debt – resulting in a much needed boost in supply to industry.

With manufacturing moving at pace through investment in new digital technologies and techniques, these new channels of learning are both timely and needed to ensure current and new employees are able to gain the skills they need for the future.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students, said:

The Office for Students is committed to promoting greater diversity, choice and value for money in higher education. We want to encourage the development of new and alternative high quality provision that responds to students’ needs and preferences.

Accelerated degrees offer students from all backgrounds the possibility of studying over a shorter period of time, at a lower overall cost compared with a standard three-year course. For many, they are likely to be an attractive option.

We look forward to seeing the impact of the new fee limit on student choice and diversity of provision across the country, and we will be working with students, universities and colleges, the government and other partners to support the wider delivery of these degrees.

Although the proposals allow institutions to charge up to 20 per cent more per year for accelerated degrees (in recognition of the increased teaching time required), the overall tuition fee cost of the 2-year accelerated degree to the student is 20 per cent less than the same degree over three years.

The 20 per cent increase per year will allow providers to support higher in-year costs for accelerated provision, such as tuition weeks over the summer and administrative staff pay and capital overheads.

For the taxpayer, it means significantly lower tuition loan outlay, higher rates of repayment and therefore a lower cost to the public purse of higher education. A higher proportion of students on accelerated degrees will also repay their loans in full.

There has been historic cross-party support for this policy, from Shirley Williams in the 1960s, to Labour spokesman Lord Stevenson, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Lord Liddle and Lord Watson who all supported it in the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill.

UK, US & France Secure UN Sanctions Against Salah Badi

FCO statement on United Nations Sanctions Committee decision to sanction militia leader Salah Badi

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

FCO statement on United Nations Sanctions Committee decision to sanction militia leader Salah Badi.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said:

The UK – along with our US & French partners – has secured United Nations Security Council agreement to sanction Salah Badi under the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 2213 (2015). We will continue to hold to account those seeking to undermine stability and security in Libya.

Salah Badi is the senior commander of the Al Somood Brigade, a militia opposed to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. He has worked consistently to undermine a political solution in Libya. In August and September 2018, Salah Badi played a leading role in heavy clashes in Tripoli in which at least 120 people were killed, most of whom were civilians.

This designation will subject Salah Badi to a travel ban and asset freeze, thereby sending a clear message from the international community that acts of violence against the Libyan people will not be tolerated. The UK will not allow those seeking to obstruct peace and stability in Libya to act with impunity.

Joint Statement On U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and Ukraine on the occasion of the 2018 U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission Meeting in Washington, DC.

Begin text:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin met November 16, 2018, in Washington, D.C., to hold a plenary session of the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission. The plenary meeting marked the tenth anniversary of the U.S.–Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, a document that enshrines the principles upon which the relationship between our two democracies is based. The plenary was also an opportunity to work toward implementation of the goals for the U.S.-Ukrainian relationship as outlined by Presidents Trump and Poroshenko during their previous bilateral meetings.

During the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian people voiced their desire to live in a modern, democratic, European state, free from corruption and foreign control. Since the Revolution, the United States has provided over $2.8 billion in assistance and three $1 billion loan guarantees to help Ukraine defend its territory and implement key reforms. The United States remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Secretary Pompeo and Foreign Minister Klimkin reiterated that cooperation between the United States and Ukraine is based on common interests and shared values, including support for democracy, economic freedom and prosperity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, energy security, and respect for human rights and the rule of law. They decided to create three new bilateral working groups focused on Security and Countering Russian Aggression; Rule of Law and Humanitarian Issues; and Economy and Energy. These groups will meet regularly to discuss areas of mutual concern and advance joint objectives. The 2018 Strategic Partnership Commission’s meeting featured inaugural sessions of each working group.

Security and Countering Russian Aggression

The two sides underscored the need to continue building Ukraine’s resilience in the face of Russian aggression, reaffirmed the importance of the Minsk agreements in ending Russia’s aggression, and highlighted the need to restore Ukrainian control over the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied or controlled by Russia – Crimea and the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Both sides decided that a robust UN-mandated international security force in the areas of Donbas controlled by Russia, including the Ukraine-Russia international border, would create the necessary security conditions for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

The United States reiterated its commitment to Secretary Pompeo’s July 25 Declaration on the non-recognition of Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea.

The United States condemned Russia’s aggressive actions against international shipping transiting the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait to Ukrainian ports. Both sides underscored that Russia’s aggressive activities in the Sea of Azov have brought new security, economic, social, and environmental threats to the entire Azov-Black Sea region.

The United States confirmed its commitment to maintain sanctions against Russia related to its aggression against Ukraine until Russia fully implements the Minsk agreements and returns Crimea to Ukrainian control.

The United States welcomed Ukraine’s prolongation of the law on special order of self-government in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions on October 4, highlighted the many steps Ukraine has taken to implement the Minsk agreements, and called on Russia to fulfill its commitments under the agreements. The United States and Ukraine demanded the immediate release of all Ukrainian political prisoners unjustly held in Russia and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, including Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Volodymyr Balukh, Server Mustafaiev, Emir-Usein Kuku, and many others.

The two sides condemned the illegal so-called “elections” in Russia-controlled Donbas on November 11. The sides reiterated these sham elections, orchestrated by Russia, contravene Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and flout UNSC Resolution 2202 (2015).

Both sides noted with satisfaction that robust security cooperation would continue in 2019, including assistance to counter Russian election meddling, joint training exercises, and cybersecurity cooperation.

The parties decided to further strengthen military-technical cooperation and welcomed the U.S. provision of military assistance, which will help build Ukraine’s long-term defensive capacity.

The United States and Ukraine confirmed the importance of the Budapest Memorandum of December 5, 1994, and called on Russia to fulfill its previous commitments to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

Ukraine reaffirmed that becoming a NATO member remains its strategic priority, as recently enshrined in its legislation. The United States welcomed Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, reaffirmed by the 2008 Bucharest Declaration, and looked forward to one day welcoming Ukraine into the Alliance. The United States reiterated its support for Ukrainian efforts to implement the security reforms detailed in the Law on National Security, and commended Ukraine’s continuing contribution to international peace and security operations throughout the globe.

Rule of Law and Humanitarian Issues

The United States and Ukraine underscored that securing Ukraine’s European future and safeguarding the country from Russian malign influences requires continued reform and strong democratic institutions, in particular a free press, vibrant civil society, and an independent judiciary delivering impartial justice.

Ukraine committed to further strengthen its democratic institutions, in particular by conducting free, fair, and secure 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections in accordance with international standards, and welcomed international support.

The United States commended Ukraine’s commitment to pursue further comprehensive judicial and law enforcement reform, necessary to strengthen the rule of law in Ukraine. The United States commended Ukraine for adopting a law to establish an independent anti-corruption court that encompasses recommendations of the IMF and other international partners of Ukraine. Ukraine reaffirmed its commitment to establishing a fully functioning independent High Anti-Corruption Court and to protecting anti-corruption institutions.

Both sides highlighted the need to increase civilians’ freedom of movement and improve access to government services and humanitarian assistance for Ukrainians affected by Russian aggression, including Ukrainians residing in territories temporarily controlled or occupied by Russia. The United States commended Ukraine’s efforts to provide for the needs of IDPs, though both sides concurred that more work remains. The sides emphasized that the rights of all Ukrainians must be equally guaranteed. The United States and Ukraine also discussed actions on combatting trafficking in persons.

Economy and Energy

The United States reaffirmed its commitment to partner with Ukraine to develop a free and prosperous economy. The United States expressed support for the many economic reforms Ukraine has undertaken, and encouraged further reform and cooperation with the IMF and other partners to achieve strong, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth. The United States and Ukraine underlined the importance of the work of the U.S.-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council to increase bilateral trade and investments by eliminating existing trade barriers and improving the regulatory environment and business climate.

Both sides intend to continue work together aimed at developing and reforming Ukraine’s energy sector to enhance Ukraine’s economy and security. Ukraine underscored its intention to expand domestic oil and gas production, unbundle the gas transit system, and welcomed the involvement of U.S. companies in these efforts, as well as in programs aimed at increasing energy efficiency. Both sides also underscored the need for continued gas transit through Ukraine, and emphasized their opposition to energy projects that threaten European energy diversity and security. In particular, the United States and Ukraine stressed the importance of continued coordination to stop proposed Russian pipelines that would hurt Ukraine’s economic and strategic stability, such as Nord Stream 2 and the second line of TurkStream.

Secretary Pompeo and Minister Klimkin look forward to further strengthening the partnership between the United States and Ukraine and decided to convene the next session of the Strategic Partnership Commission in Kyiv, Ukraine.

End text.

On the Detention Of Civil Society Leaders

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

The United States is very concerned about Turkey’s detention today of academics, journalists, and civil society activists with ties to the Anatolia Culture Association. Transparency, rule of law, and freedom of expression and association are fundamental elements of every healthy democracy. The U.S.-Turkey partnership is strongest when Turkish democracy is thriving. We urge Turkey to respect and ensure freedom of expression, association, and assembly, fair trial guarantees, judicial independence, and other human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to release those held arbitrarily.

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