Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Russian embassy may help solve case of mysterious 911 calls from injured man

Detroit police have reached out to the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C., seeking information that could help solve the mystery behind 911 calls from a man who claimed to be a member of the Russian military and reported being kidnapped and stabbed. Police Cmdr. Elvin Barren said that he has reached out to the embassy and provided Russian officials with details, including the name and military rank provided by the caller. He said he hopes to hear back from the embassy. During a news conference today, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said the number the man called from was a Russian phone number. He said a determination hasn’t been made regarding whether the call was a hoax.


Newsline: U.S. Rejects Visa for Iran Diplomat Linked to Hostages

The U.S. won’t issue a visa for an Iranian diplomat linked to the group that took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, President Barack Obama’s spokesman said. “We have informed the United Nations and Iran that we will not issue a visa” to Hamid Aboutalebi, who was Iran’s choice for its next ambassador to the UN, White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “The selection was not viable.” Hamid Babaei, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the UN, in an e-mail called the U.S. decision “regrettable” and said it was “in contravention of international law, the obligation of the host country and the inherent right of sovereign member states to designate their representatives to the United Nations.” He didn’t elaborate on further steps Iran may take. The U.S. decision follows votes by the House and Senate to bar Aboutalebi from the U.S. The decision on the visa is up to the executive branch, and Carney declined to say whether Obama would sign the legislation. The bill doesn’t mention Aboutalebi by name. Instead, it urges denial of admission to the U.S. “to any representative to the United Nations who has engaged in espionage activities against the United States, poses a threat to United States national security interests, or has engaged in a terrorist activity against the United States.” Aboutalebi, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Belgium and Italy, has been tied to a student group that led the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The U.S. responded to the takeover by breaking diplomatic ties with Iran. While the U.S. is obliged to grant entry visas to representatives of member states under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement Act approved by Congress in 1947, the U.S. president can deny visas to individuals deemed to pose a security threat to the U.S.


Newsline: Iran says US visa denial to UN envoy unacceptable

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has condemned a US decision to deny visa to Tehran’s newly-appointed ambassador to the United Nations. Briefing Iranian reporters in the Austrian capital Vienna, Zarif denounced the measure as unacceptable and said Tehran will follow up the issue through diplomatic channels at the UN. He also described Hamid Abutalebi as a veteran, experienced diplomat who has served as Iran’s ambassador to several European countries. Zarif’s comments came after the US Senate passed a resolution that is aimed at preventing Abutalebi from entering the United States. On Tuesday, the White House said the new Iranian ambassador to the UN will not be welcomed in the US, and described his nomination as “not viable”. Washington has decided to deny visa to Abutalebi over his possible involvement in the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran during post-revolution incidents in 1979.


Newsline: White House says has told Tehran U.N. ambassador choice ‘not viable’

The White House made clear that it did not welcome Iran’s choice of Hamid Abutalebi as its new United Nations ambassador, saying officials had told Tehran that the selection was “not viable.” But White House spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of saying Abutalebi would be barred from entering the United States because of his alleged role in the 1979-1981 hostage crisis, during which radical Iranian students held U.S. Embassy staff for 444 days. “We’ve informed the government of Iran that this potential selection is not viable,” Carney told reporters. Asked to explain what “not viable” meant, Carney said: “It’s diplomatic jargon to mean what you want it to mean.” He declined to elaborate on whether Abutalebi would be barred from the country, and emphasized that Iran’s choice of Abutalebi was a “potential selection” that had “not been formally made.” Earlier on Tuesday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry played down legislation passed by the U.S. Senate on Monday to bar Abutalebi from entering the United States, saying it had contacted the U.S. government about a visa. In remarks to Iranian media, Abutalebi has played down his role during the hostage crisis, suggesting he was just a translator.


Newsline: Canadian embassy in China looking into air system upgrades to deal with polution

The toxic soup that passes for air in Beijing is so bad, Canada’s ambassador to China says he might need to upgrade the embassy’s air filters. “I am very preoccupied with the air quality in Beijing and how it impacts on our lives and those of our families,” Guy Saint-Jacques told embassy staff in a January 2013 e-mail obtained by QMI Agency. Saint-Jacques says he’s asked for an analysis of the current air filtering systems at the embassy and staff living quarters, and has ordered staff to see whether more are needed. “Based on that analysis, and if need be, I will send a message to Ottawa to ask on an urgent basis for additional money to cover the costs of purchase of any supplementary (air) filters,” Saint-Jacques wrote in the e-mail. He promised to tell Foreign Affairs about the air quality problems staff in China deal with. Saint-Jacques also noted that no one will be breathing cleaner air in Beijing anytime soon “despite the best intentions of the Chinese government.” Saint-Jacques’s e-mail came within days of air quality in Beijing hitting 755 on an air pollution index that considers 300 a dangerous level.


Newsline: Government orders Russian diplomat to leave Canada

The Canadian government has quietly ordered at least one Russian diplomat to leave the country within the next two weeks, Postmedia News has learned. It wasn’t immediately clear why Lt.-Col. Yury Bezler has been declared persona non grata, including whether the move is related to recent events in Ukraine, the recent stabbing of another Russian diplomat, or some other incident. There was also no indication whether any other Russian diplomats have been told to leave. The Russian Embassy did not immediately respond to questions. Canada’s Foreign Affairs department refused to comment. Bezler has served as assistant defence attaché at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa since arriving in Canada less than a year ago, and was one of three Russian military officers working out of the embassy. His expulsion comes amid tensions between Russia and the West over the situation in Ukraine, where the two sides are embroiled in the region’s worst diplomatic crisis since the Cold War. Canada expelled nine Russian military officers from Canada last month after suspending military-to-military co-operation between the two countries over Russia’s moves to annex the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and its deployment of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border. But unlike Bezler, those Russian officers were involved in training exercises with the Canadian Forces, and were not accredited as diplomats. Belzer’s expulsion also comes less than a month after another Russian diplomat, Andrey Gorobets, was found bleeding in the lobby of his Ottawa apartment building on March 14. A reservist and Department of National Defence employee, Kevin Martin, was charged with aggravated assault in connection with the stabbing and was to appear in court on Wednesday.


Newsline: Violence Erupts at Protest Near US Embassy in Brussels

Brussels police used tear gas and water cannon in clashes with protesters, as thousands gathered at a trade union rally against austerity on Friday. Violence in the area where many government offices are situated caused a lockdown at the US embassy. Around 25,000 people, according to Brussels police spokeswoman, Ilse Van de Keere, marched against austerity and unemployment. They were faced with a heavy-handed police response. Initially, the trade unions expected to see 40,000 demonstrators on the streets of Brussels. Some demonstrators threw oranges and cobblestones at police. Violent clashes also took place near the US embassy.


Newsline: JPMorgan Promises to Process Russian Embassy Payment in Bid to Ease Tension

JPMorgan said it was processing a payment from Russia’s Embassy in Kazakhstan to Russian insurance agency Sogaz, moving to ease tensions after Moscow accused the U.S. bank of “illegally” blocking the transaction. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday the bank had blocked the payment “under the pretext of anti-Russian sanctions” and suggested the “unacceptable, illegal and absurd” act would have consequences for the U.S. Embassy in Russia. The confrontation threatened to further strain ties between Washington and Moscow, which have been locked in a standoff over Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “Following consultation with our regulators, we are processing this transaction,” JPMorgan said on Thursday in a statement. Last month, Washington imposed sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against several Russians close to President Vladimir Putin and against Rossiya Bank, which it said was the “personal bank” for the leader’s inner circle. Insurance agency Sogaz is 48.5 percent owned by Abros, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Bank Rossiya. Guidelines on the U.S. Treasury department’s website from the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control says that property which is more than 50 percent owned by a person on the sanctions blacklist is affected. “U.S. persons are advised to act with caution when considering a transaction with a non-blocked entity” in which the blocked person has significant ownership interest that is less than 50 percent, the guidelines say.


Newsline: US diplomats deny claims of US possible involvement in Kyiv snipers’ actions

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has denied claims that the United States could have been involved in the actions of snipers during mass riots in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on February 20.


Newsline: Russia Says US Bank Illegally Blocking Embassy Money Transfer

Russia has accused U.S. banking giant J. P. Morgan of illegally blocking a cash transfer from its embassy in Kazakhstan to a Russian company. A ministry statement calls J.P. Morgan’s move “unacceptable, illegal and absurd” and warns the blockage will “have consequences” for the U.S. embassy in Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry linked the blockage to U.S. sanctions slapped on Moscow for its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials or J. P. Morgan. The U.S. Congress Tuesday approved the sanctions announced by President Barack Obama last month and also gave final approval to $1 billion in loan guarantees to the Ukrainian government.



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