Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Saudi embassy denies cash, “sensitive documents” stolen in Paris attack

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Paris has issued a statement carried on Saudi state media confirming that a car owned by a Saudi citizen was forced to stop on the way to the airport and stolen, but denied media reports that the vehicle was affiliated to the embassy and was carrying money and sensitive documents. Reuters claimed that armed gunmen ambushed a Saudi prince’s convoy on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday evening, making off with a large amount of cash and some private documents in what police said looked like a raid by well-informed attackers. The Saudi convoy of about a dozen cars had been heading for the small Le Bourget airport north of the city along the major A1 highway with the prince, whose name was not revealed. According to a police official about eight masked attackers with guns, driving in two BMW cars, forced one of the cars in the convoy to stop near the Porte de la Chapelle exit junction on the northern edge of the capital at around 2100 (1900 GMT).


Newsline: Australia, Indonesia Mend Ties Following Allegations Of Embassy Spying

Australia and Indonesia have come to a “joint understanding” following a diplomatic row after reports surfaced last year alleging that the former had spied on Indonesian leaders. Reports alleged that Australia used its embassy in Jakarta in the spying effort. President Yudhoyono had reacted angrily to the spying allegations at the time.


Newsline: Assange to Leave Embassy When ‘Siege’ Is Lifted

WikiLeaks website founder Julian Assange will leave the Embassy of Ecuador in London only when the cordon around the embassy is lifted, WikiLeaks spokesman and Assange’s lawyer Kristinn Hrafnsson said in an interview with RT. Assange is indeed planning to leave the embassy, but only if the British government “calls off the siege outside,” Hrafnsson said. In an interview with Fairfax Media, Assange said he awaits legal reforms in the United Kingdom that will help him find the proper solution to the threat of extradition to Sweden. Earlier the same day, the Wikileaks founder said he may soon leave Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he has sought refuge for more than two years.


Newsline: Man Arrested for Shooting at Turkish Embassy in Moscow

Police have detained a man who opened fire on the Turkish Embassy in central Moscow on Monday morning, ITAR-Tass reported. The man, who fired two shots from a double-barreled hunting rifle at an embassy sign depicting the Turkish flag, was immediately detained by police officers guarding the embassy. No one was harmed in the incident, according to ITAR-Tass. Moskovsky Komsomolets identified the shooter as a 43-year-old Armenian businessman. The police had not commented on the identity of the shooter by the time of publication. While the shooter’s motives remain unclear, the strained relations between Turkey and Armenia over the recent exacerbation of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh — a region that lies within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders but is populated by a large majority of Armenians — circulated Monday in the Russian press as a potential motive for the act. Rallies have also previously been held at and near Turkish embassies and consulates in Russia by representatives of the country’s extensive Armenian diaspora calling for Turkey to recognize as genocide the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman authorities in 1915 in what is modern-day Turkey. ITAR-Tass reported that police have opened a hooliganism case against the man, who currently remains in police custody. If charged and convicted, he faces up to five years in prison under Russian law.


Newsline: Gunmen Attack Saudi Embassy Car in Paris, Steal $334,0000

Gunmen armed with assault weapons ambushed a car from Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Paris, stealing 250,000 euros ($334,000) in cash, a police union official said. The assault occurred late yesterday near the Paris city limits as a convoy of vehicles from the embassy headed to Le Bourget airport, said Rocco Contento, a representative of Unite SGP Police. A Saudi prince was in one of the vehicles, he said. The airport, seven kilometers (4.3 miles) north of Paris, serves business aircraft. “They must have been informed about the schedule,” he said. The assault was “very well organized” because no shots were fired and no one was hurt, he said. Spokespeople for the police in Paris didn’t immediately return calls for comment. The Saudi embassy didn’t immediately respond to requests for a comment. No one was injured in the attack, which occurred between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. as the vehicles entered the A1 highway in Paris’s 18th district, said Contento, who got his information from the police unit that responded to the attack. The last car in the convoy, a Mercedes minivan with only a driver inside, was hijacked by eight hooded gunmen in two BMWs, he said. The attackers stole the minivan with the driver and released him later, Contento said. They also took sensitive documents, he said. The vehicle was later found burned, Contento said. The prince continued to the airport and caught his plane, the union official said.


Newsline: Julian Assange to leave Ecuadorian embassy

Police have gathered outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, in anticipation that Julian Assange may be about to end his self-imposed two-year exile. If he walks out he is likely to be arrested and extradited to Sweden where he faces an investigation into sexual assault allegations. He may also face repercussions from skipping police bail by entering the embassy in June 2012. Assange claims he would then be at risk of being sent to the United States where a warrant awaits over his work with WikiLeaks exposing classified diplomatic and military information. It has been reported that his worsening health is behind his change of heart. Assange’s state of health was vividly described by a Mail on Sunday interviewer on the weekend – who listed the translucent pale skin, persistent cough and dark rings under his eyes. The Mail reported: “Assange is, according to a WikiLeaks source, suffering from the potentially life-threatening heart condition arrhythmia and has a chronic lung complaint and dangerously high blood pressure. A severe shortage of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is impacting on his general health – in the long term, it can trigger asthma and diabetes, weaken bones and increase the risk of dementia.” The British Foreign Office had turned down Ecuador’s request to take him to hospital under diplomatic protection, the Mail said.


Newsline: UK ambassador ‘lobbied senators to hide Diego Garcia role

Logs released under the Freedom of Information Act have reinforced claims that the UK lobbied to keep its role in the CIA’s torture and interrogation programme out of what is expected to be a damning Senate report. They show that the UK ambassador to the US met members of the Senate select committee on intelligence 11 times between 2012 and 2014 – as they were investigating the CIA’s rendition programme. This included two meetings with the committee’s chair, Diane Feinstein, which took place as crucial decisions were being made regarding how much of its report into the programme should be made public. The revelation has prompted fresh concern that the government lobbied for key parts of the report referring to Diego Garcia, a British territory in the Indian Ocean leased to the US as a military base, to be redacted. Human rights groups believe that the territory played a key role in facilitating the CIA’s extraordinary rendition programme – the movement of high-value terrorist suspects to “black sites” around the world without legal oversight. The US authorities have confirmed only that the territory was used for two refuelling stops. But there are suspicions Diego Garcia has played a more extensive role than the US has so far admitted, raising questions about when and what the UK knew about its use.


Newsline: UK summons Russian ambassador over Ukraine ‘incursion’

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has been called to the Foreign Office (FCO) to clarify reports of a military incursion into Ukraine by Russian forces. Alexander Yakovenko was also asked to explain a build-up of Russian military equipment on the border, the FCO said. Earlier, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond told reporters he was “very alarmed” by the incursion.


Newsline: US diplomat denies alliance will drag Australia into war with China

The US alliance will not drag Australia into war with China, says the top US diplomat for Asia. Assistant Secretary for East Asia at the State Department Daniel Russel rejected the assertion by former prime minister Malcolm Fraser that Australia was so locked into the US system that it would have no option but to join any American war with China. To the contrary, Mr Russel said America’s strong engagement across the region and its push-back against Chinese misbehaviour has substantially reduced the risk of military conflict. Mr Russel was speaking after top-level Ausmin security meetings that opened the door to the integration of Australian and US ballistic missile defence systems, additional US ship visits to Perth and increased use of a Northern Territory bombing range by the US Air Force. He said the US remained overwhelmingly committed to the Asian region even as the Obama administration was prosecuting air strikes in Iraq and coming under pressure to intervene to curb a worsening band of disorder that now stretches from Libya to Ukraine. Mr Russel’s strongest comments were in response to Mr Fraser’s view that the US-Australia alliance is a Cold War anachronism that denies Australia the strategic room to opt out of any war against China.


Newsline: Chinese embassy staffer nabbed drunk driving in Canada

A member of the Chinese diplomatic corps must leave Canada or face arrest after he was nabbed for drunk driving. The Chinese government has not provided a certificate of diplomatic immunity for Teng Zhou, 25, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on Thursday. Zhou, who is described on a Quebec government website as a Chinese government attache, was stopped near Rideau and Charlotte streets at 11:50 p.m. on June 14, Ottawa police said. He was charged with impaired driving, refusing to provide a breath sample and resisting arrest, although the resisting arrest rap was later dropped. On Thursday, Crown attorney Vikki Bair told the court a certificate of immunity had not materialized and she requested the justice of the peace issue a bench warrant. Zhou had not show up to court for the scheduled appearance. The embassy had not returned requests for comment.



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