Archive for Regions
Like something out of a spy novel, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange , a 41-year-old former computer hacker from Australia, walked into the embassy on June 19, 2012 and claimed asylum in a sensational bid to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes. Ecuador granted his request, accepting his fears that if sent to Sweden he might be passed on to the United States and prosecuted for publishing thousands of classified war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and a cache of diplomatic cables. But Britain has refused to grant him safe passage to Ecuador. For a year, police have maintained a 24-hour guard at the doors of the embassy — a modest apartment around the corner from the Harrods department store — and are poised to arrest him if he tries to leave. The last year, Assange says, has been like living on a space station. He has used a sun lamp to make up for the lack of natural light, and exercises on a treadmill. Assange’s critics accuse him of hiding from justice over the sex allegations — which he denies — saying his fears of being passed from Sweden to the US are unfounded. Entering the embassy was the final twist in a long legal battle over the allegations. But Assange claims Britain and Ecuador can reach a deal that will see him leave “within a year”. “I think the position in the UK is softening. Of course, it will never publicly humiliate the United States by offering me safe passage in a manner that doesn’t seem to be forced,” he said. “But there’s lots of ways of saving the pride of Sweden, Australia, the UK and the United States,” he added, without specifying them.
A complaint against a Thai diplomat has been filed with the Qasr Al-Nil Police Station. The diplomat allegedly assaulted an Egyptian woman at the Kempinski Hotel in Downtown Cairo. According to Rana Ashraf, the woman who filed the complaint, the Thai embassy First Secretary Kakanang Amaranand was inebriated and assaulted Ashraf after being repeatedly abrasive and vulgar. Ashraf and her husband have since contacted the embassy of Thailand in Cairo, which confirmed having received the complaint. According to a statement written by Ashraf’s husband, Amaranand was intoxicated when she met with the couple and a mutual friend at the hotel. She allegedly proceeded to criticise Egypt and its citizens, “basically saying it was a horrible country with horrible people” and making obscene gestures. Amaranand proceeded by requesting their email addresses, followed by sending the couple “a really rude email” from her phone. The couple made a joke which resulted in the diplomat allegedly kicking Ashraf. The hotel verified a “brief altercation took place between two female customers at the hotel jazz bar,” adding security had intervened and “diffused the situation by removing the two customers.” A police report was filed, but the couple was told it would be a waste of time because Amaranand has diplomatic immunity, a fact which they say she bragged about repeatedly over the course of the night. Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nazih El-Nagarry meanwhile told Daily News Egypt that he is in contact with the victim and that they are currently working on the case.
The Chinese embassy strongly condemned an attack on six Chinese students in western France, demanding French authorities bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure the safety of Chinese students in the country. An official statement said that related Chinese government departments and the Chinese embassy in France are highly concerned about the incident. The Chinese embassy has sent officials to Bordeaux to follow up the incident, assist the handling of related problems and visit the injured students. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls on Saturday condemned the attack on the six Chinese students in France’s western Gironde Province, describing it as an act of xenophobia. Valls said in a statement that the three attackers will be punished by law and the French government will provide full support for the relatives of the injured students. According to the statement, three drunk local men attacked the six Chinese students on Friday night at their home in Hostens, south of Gironde. A female student at the age of around 20 was seriously injured in the face by a glass bottle and has already been sent to a hospital in the western city of Bordeaux for further treatment, it said. Two of the alleged suspects have been detained, the statement added. The six Chinese students arrived in France two months ago for a one-year training course. French local media reported that the suspects are the neighbors of the six Chinese students. The police called on the three men on Friday night as they made too much noise, and then the drunk suspects attacked the Chinese students as they believed it was their neighbors that had complained to the police about the noise.
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi announced that Egypt has cut off diplomatic relations with Damascus, closed the Syrian embassy in Cairo and expelled all Syrian diplomats from Cairo, in addition to recalling Egypt’s envoy and diplomats from Damascus. “Egypt decided today to definitively break off relations with the current regime in Syria, to close that regime’s embassy in Cairo and to recall Egypt’s charge d’affaires,” Morsi said at the Support for Syria rally in Cairo on Saturday. “We are against any foreign intervention in any state and we reject dictating an abroad willingness on that of the country’s citizens,” Morsi added. Morsi also called for “an urgent summit” of Arab and Islamic countries to address Syria soon.
An unidentified person stole a purse with money and documents from the Israeli ambassador to Russia, the Interior Ministry reported on Sunday. The Israeli ambassador was on a tourist visit to St. Petersburg on Saturday when he was robbed in broad daylight in the center of Russia’s second largest city. “On June 15, the Israeli ambassador turned to the police with a statement that at 12:30 p.m. on the Palace Embankment, an unidentified person stole his purse that contained 12,000 rubles ($400), a diplomatic card and a bank card, from which unidentified persons later withdrew over $2,500,” the ministry said. Efforts are underway to find the thieves, the ministry said.
Newsline: Ecuador foreign minister arrives in UK in bid to end Assange impasse at Ecuadorian embassy
Ecuador’s foreign minister will be arriving in the UK for talks with his British counterpart over the situation of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecuador, but will be arrested by British authorities if he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ricardo Patino will meet William Hague on Monday and visit Assange later. Patino said he hoped his visit would help to move the situation forward and Hague would show a degree of flexibility, the report said. A Foreign Office spokesman said that they were committed to seeking a diplomatic solution to the situation and will also ensure that the country’s laws are followed.
President Obama nominated his former campaign-finance director and two leading political fundraisers to ambassadorships, the White House announced. Obama also picked the former head of the major Catholic charity to serve as the nation’s next envoy to the Vatican. The White House says Obama tapped Rufus Gifford to serve as ambassador to Denmark. Gifford ran fundraising operations during the 2012 re-election campaign and the inaugural committee. Obama also named James Costos, an HBO executive, to serve as ambassador to Spain. John Emerson, an executive with an investment-management firm, was picked for Germany. Ken Hackett, Obama’s choice for the Vatican, retired last year as president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. Obama also nominated two career diplomats, Liliana Ayalde and Patricia Marie Haslach, to serve as ambassadors to Brazil and Ethiopia, respectively. All require Senate confirmation.
A report by CRHoy.com revealed that the U.S. Embassy may be ¢2 billion (about $4 million USD) in arrears to the Family Allowances Fund (FODESAF). FODESAF is a mandatory payroll withholding for both public and private employers. However, the Embassy apparently believes that the mandatory withholding shouldn’t apply to a diplomatic mission. CRHoy reported that embassy officials responded in an e-mail, asserting that “governments do not tax other governments. Under the Vienna Convention (Articles 31 and 34), diplomatic missions are exempt from fees or taxes to a host country. This applies to the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, as well as the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington.” However, under Costa Rica’s Law of Social Development and Family Allowances, all public and private employers and institutions must pay the monthly withholding. The Head of Collections of the Department of Social Development and Family Allowances (FODESAF), Mauricio Donato, said that despite the fact that the Geneva Convention establishes certain exemptions for diplomatic bodies, that legal criteria exists in Costa Rica which would require the U.S. Embassy to make such payments. Donato also mentioned that three other embassies have cleared their debts to the fund.
Twelve new European Union ambassadors were named today, most of them to postings in Africa. The appointments, which are part of the annual rotation of officials in the European External Action Service (EEAS), involve one high-level change in the headquarters of the EU’s diplomatic service. Michael Pulch, a German who was once deputy head of the EU’s mission to China, will leave his position as director of the Russia division to become ambassador to Singapore. The post was previously held by Marc Ungeheuer of Luxembourg, whose next move has not be been announced. The largest country affected is Nigeria. Its new ambassador will be Michel Arrion, the serving ambassador to Rwanda. Arrion, who is Belgian, was previously head of delegation in Ivory Coast and in Liberia. No decision was made about the future of the man he replaces, the Briton David Macrae. A German ambassador, Gordon Kricke, has been asked to become the EU’s ambassador to Angola, a position held since 2010 by the Spaniard Javier Puyol Pinuela. Raul Mateus Paula, a Portuguese who is currently the EU’s ambassador to Cameroon, will become the EU’s envoy to Niger, replacing the German Hans-Peter Schadek. Another EU diplomat in Cameroon, Nicolas Berlanga-Martinez, a Spaniard, has been promoted from head of operations in Yanoudé to become ambassador to Togo. The outgoing envoy in Togo, Patrick Spirlet of Belgium, awaits a new post. Paula’s replacement as head of mission in Cameroon is Françoise Collet. Collet, who is French, will move from Benin, where she was head of delegation. Collet’s position in Cotonou is taken by Josep Coll, a Spaniard currently serving in the EEAS’s headquarters in Brussels. Hans-Georg Gerstenlauer, a German, leaves west Africa, where he was ambassador to Mauritania, to become the head of the EU’s delegation to Mauritius. Another ambassador to leave west Africa – Jean-Pierre Reymondet-Commoy, a Frenchman who is head of mission in Sierra Leone – will move to Central African Republic, a position currently held by Guy Samzun, a Belgian. The EU’s political counsellor in its delegation to the African Union, Nicola Bellomo, an Italian, has been named ambassador to Swaziland, where there is currently no EU ambassador. A Spanish diplomat, Jaume Segura Socias, has been drafted into the EU’s service to fill the vacant post of ambassador to El Salvador. A Romanian diplomat, Mihai Stuparu, will become head of delegation to the United Arab Emirates. Stuparu, who has served as Romania’s ambassador to Qatar and to Iraq, was his country’s envoy to Australia and New Zealand until January.
After a video on how the U.S. ambassador spends his day off was posted to Facebook, hundreds of citizens take to the social network to voice their thoughts on the U.S. presence in Pakistan. A seemingly benign promo video for the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, which was posted to Facebook, has sparked some angry commenter back-and-forth on the social network. It appears that it’s not necessarily what’s in the video that bothers Pakistanis, but rather the reminder of the U.S. presence in Pakistan at a time when relations between the two countries are clearly strained. The video, “Sunday in Islamabad with Ambassador Olson,” shows the ambassador donned in a pink button-up and khaki slacks cruising around Pakistan’s capital city chatting with people, sampling the local culinary cuisine, buying watermelon from a roadside vendor, and perusing the latest books at a local bookstore. After being posted to the U.S. Embassy’s Facebook page on Wednesday, the video has gotten more than 1,400 likes, as of this writing, but it has also gotten nearly 200 comments — many of which are critical of the U.S. and its presence in Pakistan.