Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Russia Will Sue US Over Diplomatic Sanctions

Russia is on the verge of taking the U.S. to court over the latest diplomatic sanctions announced by the State Department, Moscow’s foreign minister said. The two countries have engaged in a series of tit-for-tat moves, slapping restrictions on each other’s embassies and diplomatic missions since the U.S. election in 2016. When U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia had interfered in the election in late 2016, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats. As a punitive move, the outgoing administration also seized two Russian diplomatic compounds, in upstate New York and the Maryland countryside.



Newsline: Billion dollar US embassy opens in London

The new US embassy in London opened its doors to the public for the first time, a billion dollar glass monolith presiding over a former industrial site south of the city. With a $1 billion price tag, the embassy is not only one of the most expensive buildings of its kind in the world, but also perhaps one of the most notorious after US President Donald Trump last week said he was canceling a planned visit to London in part because of his proclaimed outrage over the cost. The new embassy, a 12-story glass cube designed by Philadelphia architecture firm KieranTimberlake, will house around 800 staff and is expected to receive 1,000 visitors daily.


Newsline: Foreign minister protests Hungarian flag at Romanian embassy

Romania’s foreign minister said he would summon the Hungarian ambassador to express his discontent after the flag of a group seeking autonomy within his country was draped over Romania’s national emblem at its embassy in Budapest. Teodor Melescanu called on Hungarian authorities to “guarantee the inviolability and integrity of Romanian missions and their staff.” The incident came days after Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose angered Hungarians with provocative comments about autonomy efforts by Szeklers, an ethnic Hungarian group who live in Romania.


Newsline: Chinese diplomats denied spying on international students at embassy dinner in Australia

Chinese diplomats reportedly denied the Communist Party was trying to control international students studying in Australia at a dinner held in Canberra. About a dozen first-term Labor MPs and senators attended a dinner function at the Chinese Embassy in Canberra last October, according to the ABC. The Chinese diplomats present at the meeting – deputy ambassador Cai Wei and first secretary Liu Wei – reportedly tried to convince the Labor cohort China was not spying on or interfering with students studying abroad in Australia. Mr Wei apparently asked how the embassy could possibly keep an eye on “tens of thousands” of students when there were only “three education officers attached to the embassy”.


Newsline: Congolese government in rent arrears for London embassy

The Congolese government is facing legal action for failing to pay rent on its embassy in London, it has emerged. The step taken by the owners of the property on Great Portland Street was revealed in a court case against a group of squatters who have been occupying part of the building. Mount Eden Land Ltd, the freeholder behind the proceedings against the squatters, said that even though the Congolese had failed to pay rent on the embassy it remained a tenant and had a right to the “peaceful enjoyment of the property”. On Monday, a possession order was made in favour of Mount Eden Land, accepting their arguments that the squatters had been trespassing. They now face eviction. The embassy is already the subject of controversy over the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s human rights record, one of the worst in the world.


Newsline: Nigeria summons US ambassador over Trump’s ‘shithole’ remarks

The Federal Government has summoned the United States ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, over the derogatory remarks by President Donald Trump. Trump had in a fit lambasted immigrants, stating that they were coming from ‘shithole’ countries, a statement that annoyed many concerned nations and generated serious criticisms from the African Union and others. Symington is expected to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama later today.


Newsline: Israeli consulate in Atlanta, 5 embassies to close next year

Israel is closing its consulate in Atlanta and embassies in six other countries, citing budget cutbacks. Also facing closure are the Israeli embassies in Ireland, Belarus, Eritrea, the Dominican Republic, the consulate in the Indian city of Bengaluru and an embassy in either Latvia or Lithuania, Yedioth Aharonoth reported. The cutbacks were blamed on a series of agreements that give envoys and local embassy employees pay raises to the tune of $11.75 million. Staff staged demonstrations and even strikes in recent years to protest their wages and demand raises, arguing meager salaries – some as low as $1,200 per month for career diplomats – were ultimately compromising Israeli diplomacy’s efforts. Officials threatened to close 22 offices abroad out of Israel’s total of 103 to justify the pay raises. But in negotiations between the foreign and finance ministries, the number was lowered to seven, to be closed down by 2022. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also cut 50 employees by 2022, many of them through early retirement.