Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Case of detained Canadians in China raises concerns among diplomats

Mar. 19 will mark the 100th day since two Canadians detained in China have had a proper night’s sleep. Since their arrest last December, they are likely to have been kept largely in the dark about the charges against them – but the lights in their cells will have stayed on day and night. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3002222/china-based-diplomats-warn-case-detained-canadians-kovrig-and) But the detention of the former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig – held along with his fellow Canadian Michael Spavor on December 10 – has shocked other diplomats stationed in China, who have been exploring legal game plans to protect themselves should they ever find themselves in the same situation. “It’s a sword of Damocles hanging over all diplomats. We are very concerned. Everyone is talking about it,” said one diplomat working in Beijing, adding that many fear returning to China on anything other than a diplomatic passport in future. Despite attempts by Beijing to separate the case from Kovrig’s work with Canada’s foreign service, many diplomatic staff are worried they could one day face a similar predicament.

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Newsline: Indonesia calls in Australian ambassador

Indonesia called in its Australian ambassador to convey strong condemnation over Fraser Anning’s statements linking the shooting to fears about immigration. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2019/mar/18/new-zealand-mosque-attack-police-search-homes-in-nsw-in-connection-with-shooting-live) Speaking on Mar. 18, Australian senator Fraser Anning refused to apologise over the original comments he made, he repeated his calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and said he is not sorry for hitting the 17-year-old boy who egged him.

Newsline: Iran recalls ambassador to Kenya over court case

Iran recalled its ambassador to Kenya because of a court decision upholding sentences for two Iranians in jail, foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Sunday, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-kenya-court-case/iran-recalls-ambassador-to-kenya-over-court-case-idUSKCN1QY0T2) Iran also lodged a formal complaint with the Kenyan ambassador in Tehran on Saturday because of the Kenyan court decision in the case of Ahmad Abolfathi and Seyed Mansour Mousavi. In 2016, a Kenyan judge reduced the life sentences given to the two Iranians convicted of planning bomb attacks to 15 years. The case raised concerns about possible Iranian plans to strike targets in the east African nation.

Newsline: Former Canadian Consulate Employee’s Discrimination Claims Dismissed in New York

A former employee’s sex and age discrimination claims against the Consulate General of Canada were rightly dismissed—in part because the employee alleged he was terminated during a larger workforce reduction while a younger man and woman were retained, and “standing alone” that doesn’t sufficiently support his claims, an appeals court has ruled. An Appellate Division, First Department panel also wrote that former employee John McCabe failed to establish “any causal connection between … complaints he made [pertaining to the Consulate General of Canada] and his later termination or any other adverse employment action.” (https://www.law.com/newyorklawjournal/2019/03/11/former-canadian-consulate-employees-discrimination-claims-dismissed/?slreturn=20190215055144) Affirming two lower court decisions, the panel both granted the Consulate General’s motion to dismiss McCabe’s lawsuit and denied McCabe’s motion to renew his motion to dismiss. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Kenney had rendered both rulings below. First she’d issued her dismissal decision in January 2017. In October 2017, she issued her denial of McCabe’s renewal motion, the panel said. The lawsuit was brought in 2016, court records show. In the suit, McCabe alleged sex and age discrimination under the New York state and New York City human rights laws, according to the panel. The unanimous panel’s decision did not indicate what job position or positions McCabe had held at the Consulate General of Canada. And the decision did not say how long he’d worked there. According to a LinkedIn profile of McCabe, he was a Business Development Officer/Trade Commissioner who was employed in New York City by the Consulate General of Canada from November 2001 to August 2012.

Newsline: Venezuelan Envoy Slams Guaido’s Plans to Move Embassy to Jerusalem

The Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has made a grave mistake in relation to the Arab world by announcing his readiness to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem, Venezuelan Ambassador to Amman Omar Vielma Osuna said. “An illegitimate government headed by Guaido is now formed. And they have committed an unforgivable mistake by saying that they would open an embassy in Jerusalem. The Arab world revolted against this idea,” the ambassador said. (https://sputniknews.com/latam/201903151073258802-venezuela-embassy-jerusalem/) According to Osuna, Venezuela’s new economic model is aimed at showing the United States that Caracas, together with its partners in the Arab world, is able to stand up to the US economy. “The new economic model of Venezuela implies working with gold, metals and other products, so we want to change the economic policies in the world and show the world that we, together with our colleagues in the Arab region, can resist the US economy,” the ambassador added. Last month, Guaido announced plans to restore ties with Israel and did not rule relocating the embassy as a move to normalize bilateral relations frozen by Caracas in 2009 over Gaza killings.

Newsline: US ambassador to Germany receives threats

The US ambassador to Germany has been receiving threats including at least one against his life. A photo of one letter seen by CNN which was sent directly to Richard Grenell in January told him to leave Germany or he would be killed. Signed by the “Society for the New Truth,” it was one of several threats that have been sent to the embassy, according to a source familiar and two State Department officials. Grenell’s spokesperson, Joseph Giordono-Scholz told CNN that “we do not publicly discuss security issues and procedures.” (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/03/14/politics/us-envoy-germany-grenell-death-threats/index.html) A former Republican political operative and spokesman to the United Nations, Grenell has carved an incendiary path since presenting his diplomatic credentials to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in May 2018, clashing with officials, businesses and the media.

Newsline: Cuba says USA, not Canada, manipulating diplomat health incidents

Cuba denounced the Trump administration on Thursday (Mar 14) for continuing to refer to health incidents among their diplomats in Havana as “attacks” without presenting any evidence, saying it was part of a broader campaign to damage bilateral relations. (https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/cuba-says-usa–not-canada–manipulating-diplomat-health-incidents-11346348) Both Canada and the United States have cut back their embassies in Havana to skeletal staffing after diplomats there began complaining about mysterious bouts of dizziness, headaches and nausea two years ago. Yet while Republican US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has vowed to unravel the detente with Cuba started by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, was quick to label the incidents “attacks,” Canada has not. A Canadian government official said in January that Cuban officials appeared as frustrated as Canadian ones over not being able to determine a cause. “The topic has been highly manipulated politically by the US government, with unfounded accusations, that have been a pretext to take measures against bilateral relations,” the Foreign Ministry’s director of US affairs, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told a news conference in Havana.