Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Israel recalls ambassador to Sweden

Sweden became the first major Western country to recognize a Palestinian state, triggering a sharp response from Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who recalled Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman to Jerusalem for consultations. Stockholm needs to understand relations in the Middle East are more complicated than self-assembly furniture at IKEA, said Liberman. The recognition is an “unfortunate decision that strengthens the extremists,” he said. Foreign Minister Margot Wallström issued a statement saying Sweden hoped the move would “facilitate a peace agreement by making the parties less unequal.” “The purpose of Sweden’s recognition is to contribute to a future in which Israel and Palestine can live side by side in peace and security. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday phoned Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and thanked him for his country’s decision to recognize the “State of Palestine.” Löfven invited Abbas to visit Sweden.


Newsline: Assange’s ‘day in court’ may come in Ecuador’s London embassy

The British government has invited Sweden’s chief prosecutor to question Julian Assange, prior to a court hearing in Sweden, on whether to withdraw a warrant for his arrest on rape charges. The UK Foreign Office said it would “actively welcome” a request by the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, to question Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, before a Swedish court decides on whether to pursue the arrest of the Australian native, The Guardian reported. “These are matters for the [Swedish] prosecutor to decide on, but if she wished to travel here to question Mr Assange in the embassy in London, we would do absolutely everything to facilitate that. Indeed, we would actively welcome it,” Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, told the House of Commons. According to The Guardian, Ny responded through a spokesperson that the British invitation was “news to her,” and she would probably provide a response in the next few days. Wanted by the United States for divulging state secrets, and by Sweden on alleged rape charges, Ecuador granted Assange political asylum in 2012. Since then, he has lived at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, described in detail in his Affidavit.


Newsline: Turkish foreign ministry, Norway embassy targeted by ‘suspect packages’

The Turkish foreign ministry and Norwegian embassy in Ankara received suspicious packages, officials said, the latest in a string of such incidents in the country. Turkey’s emergencies management agency AFAD said in a statement that both reported receiving the suspect packages. It did not say what was in the packages but the Dogan news agency said they contained the same yellow powder that had been sent to half a dozen consulates in Istanbul last week. Twenty-five staff from the consulates were hospitalised after coming into contact with the powder but all were eventually released without showing ill health. The health ministry had said there was no evidence of dangerous substances in the powder, which turned out to be nothing more than yellow chalk. The consulates of Belgium, Canada, Germany, France, Hungary and the United States — all countries involved in the international coalition against Islamic State (IS) jihadists — had reported receiving the yellow powder.


Newsline: Finland to close embassies in Slovenia, Slovakia and Luxembourg

Finland will continue to trim down its network of diplomatic missions abroad by closing its embassies in Slovenia, Slovakia and Luxembourg by the end of next year due to a decision to cut the appropriations of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for operating expenses. The closures are projected to generate savings of 1.8 million euros next year. On the other hand, the country will develop its temporary liaison office in Beirut, Lebanon, into a fully-fledged embassy. Overall, Finland has in the course of the ongoing electoral term announced the closures of ten embassies and consular missions as well as the establishment of two new liaison offices. The country will consequently be left with a network of 89 embassies and diplomatic missions abroad. Erkki Tuomioja (SDP), the Minister for Foreign Affairs, assures that no further closures are in the pipeline.


Newsline: Venezuela recalls ambassador due to Spanish ‘interference’

Venezuela recalled its ambassador to Spain following the Spanish prime minister’s show of support for a Venezuelan opposition figure imprisoned for demonstrating against the Venezuelan government. Last week, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy tweeted his support for Leopoldo Lopez after meeting with Lopez’s wife in Madrid. President Nicolas Maduro railed against Rajoy on Venezuelan state television “[Rajoy] thinks he’s a king, the owner of the Americas,” he reportedly said, adding that the prime minister should “respect Venezuela,” and was “creating a disaster in Spain.” In a short statement, Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the recall of the ambassador and a “comprehensive review of diplomatic relations” with Rajoy’s “interfering statements.” Lopez has been in jail in Venezuela since February, when he was charged with spearheading mass anti-government protests. More than 40 people were killed during the demonstrations, which continued for three months. Diplomatic ties were nearly broken between Venezuela and Spain in 2007, when former King Juan Carlos told former President Hugo Chavez to “shut up” during a regional summit.


Newsline: Criminal case opened over attack on Russian Embassy in Kiev

The Russian Investigative Committee (IC) has opened a criminal case over the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev in June 2014, IC spokesman Vladimir Markin told TASS. “The Main Investigation Department of the Russian Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case over the attack on the Russian Embassy in Kiev against Ukrainian radically driven members of nationalist armed formations Right Sector and Self-Defense of Maidan and other unidentified nationalists for an assault on official facilities and vehicles of officials under international protection,” Markin noted. On June 14, several dozen people stormed the Russian Embassy in the Ukrainian capital, blocking the entry to the embassy, pelting smoke barrels and firecrackers at the premises, and tearing down the Russian flag. Police did not stop the aggressively minded crowd. “As a result, the embassy building and other embassy property sustained more than 18.8 million rubles ($440,700) of material damage,” Markin said. Moscow called on Kiev to ensure the security of the Russian Embassy and of the consulates general in Odessa, Kharkiv and Lviv in order to guarantee their normal operation.


Newsline: Niger’s embassy in Libya ‘surrounded’ by heavily armed militia

Niger said its embassy in Libya was surrounded by heavily armed militias, possibly in response to unfounded rumours that Nigerien forces had entered the Libyan embassy in Niamey. The militias encircled the mission in the capital Tripoli in the early hours of Tuesday, resulting in “diplomatic personnel, including the ambassador, being confined,” the secretary general of Niger’s foreign ministry, Abani Sani Ibrahim, told reporters. He said the gunmen, who drove up in “military vehicles” fitted with heavy machineguns, did not attack the embassy, but he qualified the situation as “extremely serious”.



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