Archive for Middle East
President Robert Mugabe’s government has moved to set up an embassy in the United Arab Emirates. The embassy, it would seem, will have no major diplomatic task to handle except to oversee the sale of the country’s diamond exports to the rich country, an international hub for diamond trade. Mugabe flew off to Dubai Saturday to land support to the task as well as cut a few deals with the Arabs, as his government battles to revive an economy that could soon start failing to pay its workers. Mugabe, 90, is hard pressed to find a quick solution to the country’s worsening economic situation as companies continue to shut down citing viability problems while offloading thousands onto the country’s jobless market. Ever since diamonds were discovered in Chiadzwa 2006, Zimbabweans are yet to realise the full benefits of their country’s diamond endowment.
Foreign-backed militants in Syria have fired mortar shells at several areas in the capital, Damascus, with one landing near the Russian Embassy, reports say. Syria’s official SANA news agency said 17 mortar shells slammed into different areas across the city, causing damage to a hospital and several cars and homes. The so-called Observatory for Human Rights said mortar shells landed near the Umayyad area and the Russian Embassy in the Mazraa neighborhood of the capital. No casualties have been so far reported. Cities across Syria have frequently come under militant mortar and rocket fire over the past few years. The attacks have left many people dead or injured.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry re-opens after a 10-day closure caused by a strike. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported that the strike ended following the government’s promise to increase the salaries of its diplomats. Under a collective agreement, salaries of diplomats will also be adjusted to the cost of living in their country of assignment. Diplomatic spouses will also be compensated properly for loss of work in their careers and expenses for education of their children will also be shouldered by the foreign ministry. The Israeli Foreign Ministry Workers Union said in a statement on Wednesday, April 2: “We are glad that the State of Israel understands the difficulties that the fighters of the Foreign Ministry must deal with and are sorry for the unnecessary damage that was caused. Tomorrow the foreign fighters of Israel will return to the global front line.” The diplomats’ strike began on March 24. It closed down Israel’s 103 posts worldwide. It paralyzed Israel’s diplomatic system as well as foreign relations and ongoing negotiations. It also caused the postponement of visits of world leaders to Israel and official foreign trips of Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was to visit Mexico, Panama and Colombia this month – a supposed historic visit as it would have been the first by sitting Israeli prime minister to South America.
Czech police investigating the death of the Palestinian ambassador in Prague are offering a key new detail in their investigation, now saying he was holding an explosive in his hand when it detonated. Ambassador Jamal Al Jamal, 56, was killed in the blast at the Palestinian Embassy on New Year’s Day. While officials had said Jamal opened a booby-trapped safe, police now say their tests suggest Jamal was “mishandling” the explosives. Czech police investigating the death of the Palestinian ambassador in Prague are offering a key new detail in their investigation, now saying he was holding an explosive in his hand when it detonated. Ambassador Jamal Al Jamal, 56, was killed in the blast at the Palestinian Embassy on New Year’s Day. While officials had said Jamal opened a booby-trapped safe, police now say their tests suggest Jamal was “mishandling” the explosives. “An experimental blast carried out by experts confirms this theory,” police spokeswoman Andrea Zoulova said according to Agence France-Presse. “The explosive was not placed on the door or inside the safe and was not there to protect the safe,” Zoulova added, according to the BBC. “Mishandling remains the most likely option,” she said. “There’s a question of whether he knew what he was dealing with.” The new information casts new mystery on the circumstances of the explosion inside the embassy. The BBC reported that Czech police believe they need few a few more weeks to complete their investigation which is now being characterized as a case of negligence.
The Foreign Ministry headquarters in Jerusalem were shut, as striking ministry workers blocked all entrances and prevented entry. The workers declared a general strike on Sunday, closing all foreign ministry offices and missions around the world. The workers are protesting the employment conditions of Israeli diplomats and the Finance Ministry’s decision to cut their salaries over the renewed sanctions. The striking workers erected a protest tent at the entrance to the ministry and blocked all access points with truckloads of garbage, assisted by members of the Histadrut’s Jerusalem district. Ministry Director-General Nissim Ben-Shitrit was prevented from entering the compound when he arrived for work. He left the ministry after a short conversation with the strikers, during which he expressed support for their struggle. Dozens of Israeli missions in the Far East and Europe remained closed on Monday morning due to the strike. Security officers of the embassies in Rome, New Delhi, Paris, Brussels and other capitals prevented representatives of the Israel Defense Forces, the defense ministry, the Mossad and the economy ministry from entering the premises. Missions in North America and Latin America remained closed on Monday. It is unclear what will happen at the Israeli embassy in Washington, where Ambassador Ron Dermer, a political appointee of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposes the strike and does not regard himself as bound by the instructions of the workers’ union. The strikers have been making significant efforts to ensure that the Washington embassy remains closed, including to the dozens of representatives of government offices other than the foreign ministry who are based there.
Employees of Israel’s Foreign Ministry went on an all-out strike Sunday for the first time in the country’s history over a dispute surrounding workers’ salaries and conditions. The dispute has been going on for nearly two years. Seven months of negotiations ended on March 4, when workers rejected a proposal by the Finance Ministry. Israeli ambassadors abroad will not go to work, no consular services will be available, and Israel will not be represented at any international gatherings during the strike. Even the Foreign Ministry’s political leadership and management will be locked out. The strike is indefinite and will affect everyone, including employers bringing foreign workers to Israel for work, immigrants, and anyone who wants to travel to Israel – including foreign dignitaries. “Today, for the first time in Israel’s history, the foreign ministry will be closed and no work will be done in any sphere under the ministry’s authority,” a statement by the ministry’s workers’ committee reads. It added that the strike would be “open ended” because of the “employment conditions for Israeli diplomats and because of the draconian decision by the Treasury to cut workers’ salaries.” A number of visits have already been canceled or put on hold, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned trip to Mexico, Panama, and Colombia next month, as well as Pope Francis’ planned visit to Israel in May. Avigdor Lieberman said the worker’s committee has “lost its head” in what was a “miserable decision.” The diplomats are demanding an increase in their monthly salaries and want compensation for their spouses who have to quit jobs because of foreign postings. They say that one-third of Israeli diplomats have already quit over the past 10 years because of low salaries.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian says the Iranian diplomat abducted in Yemen last July is “in complete good health.” Amir-Abdollahian said that Yemeni officials are seriously pursuing the release of Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, the Iranian Embassy official who was abducted in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a last year. He further added that Iran “is closer” to securing the release of the abducted diplomat. Nikbakht was on his way to work from his home in the city’s diplomatic quarter on July 21, 2013 when unidentified gunmen blocked the road, forced him out of his vehicle and abducted him. On January 18, another staff member at the Iranian Embassy in Sana’a, Abolqasem Asadi, was gunned down by members of a terrorist group outside the Iranian ambassador’s residence in the Yemeni capital.
Just over two years after an Israeli Embassy worker was injured in a terror attack in New Delhi, officials were reportedly rattled Wednesday afternoon when a 35-year-old man was seen suspiciously lingering around the diplomatic mission with a package in his hands. Police had responded to a call from the embassy that a suspicious man had attempted to trespass onto their premises, according to The Times of India. When police approached the man, he began to run and was chased down by officers and embassy guards. Sappers and dog units arrived on the scene to dismantle the package, which turned out to contain a Ganesha idol, according to the report. The suspect, identified only as Momin from the northern Indian state of Haryana, was reportedly injured in the chase. He was taken to a hospital for treatment, but remains under detention pending further questioning. The incident came hours after a letter was received threatening to blow up the city’s Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India. Law enforcement could not confirm if the two incidents were related, but The Times of India reported that Indian intelligence agencies had joined the probe and were waiting to interrogate Momin. In February of 2012, Tal Yehoshua Koren, the wife of an Israeli security attache and an embassy worker, was injured when an assailant on a motorcycle affixed explosives to the back of her car and sped off as they detonated. Documents obtained by The Times of India in July of that year showed that Indian police believed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were behind the attack.
The United States formally notified the Syrian government on Tuesday that it must suspend operations at its embassy here and at its consulates in Michigan and Texas, the State Department said. The move stops short of a formal break of relations, but it bars Syria’s envoys here from carrying out diplomatic and consular duties. The handful of Syrian diplomats who are still assigned to the embassy and consulates must leave the United States by the end of this month. Secretary of State John Kerry, who noted that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had continued to pummel cities and towns, said at a town-hall-style meeting of university students at the State Department that the continued presence of a functioning Syrian Embassy had been “an insult.” “And we closed it,” Mr. Kerry said. “It’s that simple.”
Israel’s Foreign Ministry workers are in the midst of an unprecedented strike for better working conditions and higher pay in a move that has paralysed Israel’s crucial network of diplomats. The strike is entering its third week and even involves ambassadors, such as the top envoy to Australia, Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, a member of the Foreign Ministry for more than 30 years who has been in the country only six months. According to the website of Israel’s Australian embassy, there will be no consular services until further notice except in cases of life-threatening situations, urgent medical treatment, death, adoption and surrogacy. It also means visas are not being issued, cables are not going back to Israel and no media interviews granted, although staff are still turning up to work on a limited range of duties. ”We apologise for the inconvenience,” the website says. ”It may seem unusual for the diplomatic service of a country to become engaged in a labour dispute. At the start of the strike Israel’s Foreign Service Workers’ Association said government procrastination had prompted the strike of all protocol and consular services and that treatment provided to the foreign diplomatic corps – missions and international organisations, diplomatic staff, and foreign employees working for the missions and residences – would be suspended. The latest strike comes after several months of mediation with Israel’s Finance Ministry fell through.