Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Diplomats get away without paying parking tickets

Immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention may be a vital part of international relations, but it does little good for the moral fibre of the individuals involved. As of April in Canberra, Australia, diplomats representing various foreign powers owed the city more than A$500,000 (£290,000) – mostly in unpaid parking fines. Tickets for running red lights and speeding were also common. Saudi Arabian diplomats alone owed nearly A$140,000. In New York, meanwhile, the total bill for parking tickets issued to UN diplomats was more than $16m (£12.3m) as of March. In London, diplomats failed to pay 4,858 parking fines in last year alone, creating £477,499 of debt (£161,328 of which was later waived or paid). The real story here, however, is the congestion charge. Nearly £100m of congestion charges fees remain unpaid since it was introduced in 2003 – more than 10% of it from the US embassy. In part, things have reached this stage because of an argument over whether the charge is the price of a service or merely a tax for going in and out of London. Diplomats tend to argue the second, because it just so happens that they are also immune from tax as well as from prosecution. The US reached this view in 2005.


Newsline: Land plots allotted to Russian Embassy in Pakistan cancelled

The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has cancelled lease of five plots allotted to the Russian Embassy after the diplomatic mission said it did not wish to use the land. The decision came after the embassy wrote a letter to the authority stating that they had not used the land nor were they intending to use it in the future. The embassy was allotted five plots, located in Block 6 of the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad, measured 2,700 square yards. The land was offered to Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Government of Pakistan on March 21, 2007 and in turn to the Russian Embassy. However, the plots were offered on the condition that cost of land would have to be paid. The cost was worked out to Rs202.5 million payable up to July 21 2007. However, CDA said the diplomatic mission has not paid the premium till the date. Despite this, the authorities said they had levied late payment charges and issued a notice to the mission for paying outstanding dues amounting to Rs421m including the premium, annual ground rent (AGR) and delayed charges on AGR. In a response to the notice, the Russian Embassy sent CDA letter on April 7 2016 informing the authority that they had never used the land nor did they have any intention to use these plots. The authority hence decided to cancel these plots from the name of the Embassy of Russia.


Newsline: France Summons Belgium’s Ambassador in Migrant Spat

France summoned Belgium’s ambassador in Paris, after detaining two Belgian police officers on French territory for allegedly depositing migrants across the countries’ border. The incident has raised concerns in Paris about Belgian police operations to close the border to migrants coming from France. Disputes over handling migrant applications have become a persistent source of tension across Europe.


Newsline: $12 Million Iranian Embassy In Washington Remains Empty

The $12 million compound, once a playground for the Iranian ambassador and guests like Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol and Richard M. Nixon, now sits empty on Washington’s Embassy Row. The five-story Upper East Side townhouse that served as a consulate was long ago repurposed as the headquarters of a dealer of old master paintings. And the seven-bedroom Bethesda, Md., ranch house for Iranian diplomats is now the home of a family of five. The properties, and seven others across the United States assessed altogether at more than $50 million, still belong to the Islamic Republic of Iran. But for nearly 40 years, the task of maintaining and putting the properties out for rent has fallen to an unlikely management company — the State Department. The arrangement is one of the stranger consequences of the diplomatic freeze between United States and Iran, two former allies that cut official ties after Iranian revolutionaries took 52 Americans hostage in the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Although much has changed since the nuclear deal last year, when Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, experts say Iran and the United States are still years away from re-establishing diplomatic relations. As a result, Iran’s properties in the United States remain in limbo, with little prospect of change.

Newsline: Israeli Embassy in Ankara ups security after failed attack

Security at the Israeli Embassy in Ankara was bolstered following a failed attack outside the compound. Turkish police maintains an increased presence at the site as a matter of routine, and has boosted deployment even further following the foiled attack. The incident took place in the early hours of Wednesday afternoon, when a man, later identified as Osman Nuri Caliskan, 38, charged security guards stationed at the main entrance to the Israeli diplomatic compound in the Turkish capital. The guards called to the man to stop, but he ignored them, shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and “We’ll stop bloodshed in the Middle East,” as he charged the guards. They opened fire in his direction, and shot him in the leg.


Newsline: 75 former ambassadors blast ‘ignorant’ Trump

Seventy-five career diplomats said in a letter Thursday that they will never vote for Donald Trump, claiming he has “insulted” America’s allies and displayed a level of ignorance that could embolden our enemies. “None of us will vote for Donald J. Trump,” declared the signatories, all of whom simultaneously endorsed the Democratic presidential ticket. “Very simply, this election is different from any election we can recall. One of the candidates — Donald J. Trump — is entirely unqualified to to serve as president and commander in chief.” Those behind the letter — including Susan Burk, former special representative of President Obama for Nuclear Nonproliferation; James Cunningham, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Israel and the United Nations; Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico; and Thomas Pickering, former undersecretary of state for Political Affairs and U.S. ambassador to Russia, India, Israel and the United Nations — described Trump as “ignorant of the complex nature of the challenges facing our country” and uninterested “in being educated.”


Newsline: Attempted stabbing at Israeli embassy in Turkey, assailant shot

A man with a knife was shot by a local security guard while attempting to enter the Israeli Embassy in Turkey on Wednesday, according to the Foreign Ministry. “The staff is safe. The attacker was wounded before he reached the embassy,” a ministry spokesman said in a text message.