Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia

Newsline: British ties cut Australia’s embassy costs

Australia and Britain have embarked on even closer foreign relations co-operation to save money, agreeing to share embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan and combine aid projects. The decision to co-locate ­embassies — made at the Australia-UK Ministerial meeting in London this month — is expected to deliver a significant ­reduction in security costs for both nations. The cost to the Australian taxpayer for a separate Aus­tralian embassy in Baghdad is $45 million a year, with the Kabul embassy costing $50m. When the embassies are co­located the premises and security will be shared but diplomatic and consular services will continue to function separately.


Newsline: Chinese embassy in Australia sends special emergency unit to Perth

The Chinese embassy in Australia sent a special emergency unit to the western city of Perth, which will work with the Chinese consulate-general to cooperate with the Australian side to search the missing Malaysian flight MH370. Chen Wenrong, military attache of the Chinese embassy who led the unit, told Xinhua that the Chinese military has worked very quickly to respond to the new situation, according to the decision of Chinese government. The Chinese naval vessels has changed its mission near Indonesia and turned to the south Indian Ocean, and two military aircraft arrived in Perth on Saturday and work together with the Australian forces. According to the Consul-General Huang Qinguo, the Chinese icebreaker “Xuelong” has left Perth for the south Indian Ocean to search possible debris for the missing plane. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority search operation for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Friday has concluded without any sightings.


Newsline: Plans for new Russian embassy in Australia escape sanctions

The Australian government’s sanctions against Russia won’t affect the project most dear to the hearts of Russia’s diplomats in Canberra – the construction of a luxury apartment block and new embassy building in the diplomatic enclave of Yarralumla. However, the embassy’s plans to upgrade Russia’s diplomatic presence may be complicated by the government’s refusal to allow Russian construction workers and security experts to support the project. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced on Wednesday that Australia would join the US and Europe in imposing sanctions on 12 Russian and Ukrainian people who had ”been instrumental in the Russian threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty”. The Foreign Minister said further options would be considered in response to Russia’s seizure of Crimea. However, her office confirmed on Thursday the government would not block the Russian embassy’s ambitious construction plans. ”Australia has not severed diplomatic relations with Russia,” a spokesman for Ms Bishop said. ”In those circumstances, the issue of the construction of the Russian embassy does not arise.” Russian ambassador Vladimir Morozov has lodged a development application with the ACT Planning and Land Authority (ACTPLA) for the construction of a five-storey, 18-unit apartment block inside the embassy’s compound in Griffith, near Manuka’s retail and restaurant precinct. The $8.2 million project includes a large swimming pool and extensive landscaping. Russia’s diplomats have long put up with dilapidated facilities after an earlier proposal to relocate the embassy was vetoed by the Fraser government after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.


Newsline: Chinese embassy in Australia ordered to keep in close touch with Australian authorities

China paid great attention to Australia’s possible findings related to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Thursday. Two objects possibly related to flight MH370 have been sighted by satellite in the remote southern Indian Ocean, Australian officials said Thursday. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told parliament that “new and credible information” based on satellite imagery had come to light, and that four long-range surveillance planes were being diverted to look into the find in the southern Indian Ocean. China expects the Australian side to send vessels and airplanes as soon as possible to related waters for search and verification, said Hong. He said the Chinese Foreign Ministry has ordered the embassy and consulates in Australia to keep in close touch with the Australian authorities and assist the Australian side in the searching and rescuing work. China’s embassy in Australia has initiated an “emergency mechanism” and told embassy staff to stay in close touch with the Australian government.


Newsline: Russian ambassador to Australia called in to explain troops in Crimea

The Australian government on Monday summoned Ambassador Vladimir Morozov to explain Russia’s decision to send troops into Crimea. Tony Abbott told parliament the Russian ambassador was called in “to be told in no uncertain terms what Australia thinks about this aggression against an independent country”. “I can inform the house that a visit by the minister for trade and investment to Russia will not go ahead and I can further inform the house that a visit to Australia by the Russian national security adviser, likewise, will not go ahead,” Abbott said during question time on Monday. “Unprovoked aggression should have no place in our world. Russia should back off. It should withdraw its forces from the Ukraine and the people of the Ukraine ought to be able to determine their future themselves.” The foreign minister, Julie Bishop, has called for Russian troops to be withdrawn, and instructed her department head, Peter Varghese, to register Australia’s concerns with the Russian ambassador. But Morozov defended the military presence in Crimea, claiming the troops were invited by the newly-elected government there and the Russian fleet had long been located in the region. “Nothing is going on with any invasion to Ukraine,” he told reporters through an interpreter, following his meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. “There are self-defence troops created in Crimea which are trying to stabilise the situation and secure the Crimea.” Bishop played down the possibility of Australia recalling its ambassador in Moscow, saying the government was taking its diplomacy step by step. Australia also holds the presidency of the G20, of which Russia is a leading member, and is hosting the leaders’ summit in November in Brisbane.


Newsline: Indonesia calls in Australian ambassador

Indonesia has stepped up its protests against the Abbott government’s border protection policies, hauling Australia’s ambassador to Jakarta into the foreign affairs ministry for a dressing down. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said he had told ambassador Greg Moriarty in a meeting that Australia’s use of lifeboats to return asylum seekers was an ”unacceptable” escalation of its border protection policy, Indonesian news magazine Tempo reported on its website. The use of lifeboats has been a key development in Australia’s boat turnback policy – a policy Indonesia has vehemently opposed. The purchase of about 12 of the sophisticated lifeboats is a way of neutralising the people smugglers’ tactic of deliberately scuttling their boats when Australian navy or Customs ships approached, leaving the Australians no choice but to rescue the asylum seekers from the water and take them to Christmas Island. The Abbott government defended the use of boat turnbacks ahead of last September’s election by insisting they were only returning Indonesian-flagged and crewed boats that had departed from Indonesian ports. Dr Natalegawa said the use of lifeboats represented a more serious violation of Australia’s commitments to the refugee convention than its previous policies. He said Australian ships should take the asylum seekers onboard for processing.


Newsline: No Terror Links to Australian Embassy Intruder in Indonesia

Police said that a man who breached the Australian Embassy compound over the weekend carrying several bladed implements would have to undergo psychiatric evaluation because his statements to investigators were incoherent. Sr. Comr. Rikwanto, a spokesman for the Jakarta Police, said that the suspect, identified only as Mohammad, 43, “keeps changing his testimony to investigators.” “We plan to have him checked by a psychiatrist,” he added. “We still don’t know his motive. He appears to be confused.” Mohammad was arrested after jumping the perimeter fence of the Australian Embassy on Jalan Rasuna Said, South Jakarta, at around 9:50 a.m. on Saturday. Upon searching him at the security post, embassy security staff and diplomatic police found he was carrying a kitchen knife, a folding knife, three razor blades, a lighter and seven meters of rope, among other items. Rikwanto said there were no indications yet to suggest that the breach was part of a terrorist act. “We haven’t found any links to any particular [terrorism] cells or perpetrators. It still appears at this point to be an isolated incident,” he said. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed the perimeter breach, but said the intruder was immediately intercepted and taken away. “Embassy guards responded immediately,” a spokesman said in a statement as quoted by The Australian. “The individual was escorted from the premises by Indonesian police.” The embassy was the target of a car bomb attack in September 2004 in which nine people were killed, including the suicide bomber, and 150 injured. The Australian government plans to turn its embassy in Jakarta into its biggest diplomatic mission anywhere in the world by 2015.


Newsline: Zimbabwe ambassador to Australia seeks asylum

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Australia has asked for political asylum just days before her term ends saying she fears for her safety if she goes home. Jacqueline Zwambila, who is a member of Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was appointed to Australia to renew ties between the countries after a unity government was formed in Zimbabwe in 2009. MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai shared power with veteran leader Robert Mugabe in the unity government until a July 31 election which Mugabe won. The opposition rejected the vote as fraudulent but it was largely endorsed by African observers as free and credible. “I am not going to be returning to Zimbabwe,” Zwambila told Australia’s Fairfax media. Zwambila said the election had been “stolen” by an “illegitimate” government and she would not feel safe going home. Zwambila, who was recalled along with other envoys after Mugabe took office again, has been accused in Zimbabwe of conduct not befitting a diplomat, media in Zimbabwe has reported. Zwambila has voiced fears of detention if she were to return home, saying she had been threatened with arrest in Zimbabwe after a court found that she owed some money to a tradesman. She denies the charge. Australia joined the United States and Britain in questioning the credibility of the July election.


Newsline: Man enters Australian embassy in Indonesia carrying knives

Police have reportedly found two knives and a rope on a man who scaled the Australian embassy wall in Indonesia. According to a report from Indonesian news agency Antara, the man climbed the side wall and entered the Australian embassy complex on Saturday night. Embassy security officers caught the man, 43, and took him to Jakarta police headquarters. The report states police found seven metres of rope, a kitchen knife and a folded knife on the man. Jakarta Police spokesman Rikwanto told Antara the man used the rope to climb the side perimeter. They are questioning the man.


Newsline: French Embassy in Australia evacuated during small fire

Seven people are being treated for smoke inhalation after a fire in a paper shredder caused the French Embassy in Yarralumla to be evacuated. ACT Fire and Rescue crews extinguished the paper fire in the industrial shredder on the ground floor of the Perth Avenue mission shortly after 11.19am on Monday. An Emergency Services Agency spokesperson said intensive care paramedics treated seven patients for mild smoke inhalation. The two-storey embassy building received minimal fire damage. Three fire pumpers attended the scene, accompanied by the specialist hazardous materials unit, breathing apparatus van and the Bronto Skylift hydraulic platform.



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