Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) presided over the Senate Foreign Relations Committee business meeting today, where one bill to create American jobs through increased exports to Africa, another bill to compensate former American hostages held in Iran, as well as five senate resolutions and three ambassadorial nominations were approved by committee members.
Senators advanced legislation calling on the Obama administration to establish a trade strategy for Africa that will increase American exports and create American jobs. The bill, titled, Increasing American Jobs Through Greater Exports to Africa Act of 2013 was authored by Sen. Durbin (D-IL).
The Committee also passed legislation establishing a fund in the Treasury to make payments to the American hostages held in Iran from 1979 to 1981. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Isakson (R-GA).
"For too long, the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran have been denied the opportunity to seek redress for their terrible ordeal. Nothing can compensate them for their suffering, but this bill offers a measure of solace for the days they were held hostage in Iran," Menendez said.
Senators also approved a measure offered by Senator Menendez reaffirming U.S. support for peaceful resolutions to maritime and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
"This resolution underscores the Senate's enduring commitment to U.S. interests in the maritime domains of the Asia-Pacific, encourages the peaceful settlement of disputes through diplomatic means, and makes clear that disputed claims must be dealt with under international law," said Menendez. "These disputes have reached alarming levels in recent months. We need to make clear that attempts to use coercion or force to change the status quo are unacceptable."
Menendez also praised a resolution introduced by Sen. Casey (D-PA) calling for transparent and credible elections in Afghanistan next year. The Casey resolution co-sponsored by Chairman Menendez encourages the Afghan government to empower independent electoral bodies to oversee elections and work with the Afghan National Security Forces to provide security during elections. It also urges Secretary Kerry to condition assistance to Afghanistan on the condition of key electoral reforms.
"Planning for credible elections should be one of our highest priorities in Afghanistan," said Menendez. "The elections must be free from interferences and we should condition long-term assistance on their credibility and the successful transition of power."
The committee passed resolutions in support of international efforts to achieve long-term peace in the Congo, and demanding the release of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Committee members also unanimously approved the nominations of Mr. Geoffrey R. Pyatt to serve as Ambassador to Ukraine, Dr. Tulinabo Salama Mushingi to serve as Ambassador to Burkina Faso, and Mr. Daniel R. Russel to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.