Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Equatorial Guinea says France illegally seized ’embassy’

Lawyers for Equatorial Guinea told United Nations judges Monday that French authorities illegally seized a mansion in Paris that the African nation insists operated as its embassy. The building was seized as part of a money laundering investigation into the son of the central African nation’s president. “France has submitted my country to treatment which is totally arbitrary, discriminatory, and consequently contrary to international law,” Carmelo Nvono-Nca, who led Equatorial Guinea’s legal team, told judges as public hearings in the case got underway. (https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/feb/17/equatorial-guinea-france-illegally-seized-embassy/) The International Court of Justice case is focused on the diplomatic status of a multimillion-euro (dollar) mansion on one of the French capital’s most prestigious streets, Avenue Foch.

Newsline: Case Against Venezuela Embassy Protectors Ends in Mistrial in Washington

The case against activists who were arrested last April while they were staging a weeks-long protest at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., ended in a mistrial after a hung jury. (https://www.democracynow.org/2020/2/17/headlines/case_against_venezuela_embassy_protectors_ends_in_mistrial) The four activists were staying at the embassy at the behest of the Venezuelan government to prevent its takeover by U.S.-backed supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Margaret Flowers, one of the embassy protectors, after the mistrial was declared, said: “We’re very happy with this verdict. Of course, we would have been happier with an acquittal. But, for today, we remain innocent, as we are. And we appreciate the tremendous amount of support that we’ve received from people here coming to the trial, as well as people around the world sending us messages of solidarity. La lucha continua.”

Newsline: Former UN ambassador’s daughter charged with murder in the US

The daughter of a former US ambassador to the United Nations has been charged with murder in the death of a Maryland man. Sophia Negroponte, 27, was arrested Thursday night and charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Yousuf Rasmussen, 24, according to Montgomery County police. (https://nypost.com/2020/02/15/former-un-ambassadors-daughter-charged-with-murder/) Officers said they responded to a report of a stabbing at a Rockville City home and found Rasmussen “suffering from what appeared to be a cutting wound.” He was pronounced deceased at the scene, police said. Police said Rasmussen and Negroponte were acquaintances and had been involved “in a disagreement.” Negroponte is the adopted daughter of John Negroponte, who served as the UN ambassador under President George W. Bush as well as the ambassador to Iraq. He was the Bush Administration’s director of national intelligence and the deputy secretary of state under both Bush and President Barack Obama. Sophia is one of five children the couple adopted in Honduras, where John Negroponte served as the US ambassador in the 1980s.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Tokyo Says Charter Plane to Evacuate Citizens from Diamond Princess

The United States will send a charter plane to evacuate U.S. citizens from the coronavirus-stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess, quarantined off Japan, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo said Saturday. (https://www.nippon.com/en/news/yjj2020021500414/) The plane will arrive in Japan on Sunday night, the embassy said. It will likely depart Tokyo International Airport at Haneda in the early hours of Monday, according to sources with expertise on Japan-U.S. affairs. In the German city of Munich, visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed close cooperation on the matter. Motegi said Tokyo will cooperate with any other countries that want to evacuate their citizens from the ship early, if they arrange flights or other means of transportation. The U.S.-chartered plane is set to take the evacuees from the Diamond Princess to a U.S. Air Force base in California. They will undergo further quarantine of 14 days.

Newsline: Thai Embassy in Beijing ordered to care for nationals stranded in Wuhan

Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai ordered the Thai embassy in Beijing to take care of three Thai citizens stranded in Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. (https://thethaiger.com/hot-news/coronavirus/embassy-ordered-to-care-for-3-thais-stranded-in-wuhan) The three didn’t join the 138 Thai evacuees who returned on February 4. One of the three is a woman who overstayed her visa and has yet to pay the fine. The second is a woman recovering from a fever, while the third is a man who had a fever at the time of the evavuation but has now completely recovered. “I have ordered the embassy to take care of Thai people in other Chinese cities as well. No one will be left behind no matter where they are, in virus-risk areas or not. Everyone will receive care from the Foreign Ministry.”

Newsline: European diplomats check India’s loosening of Kashmir clampdown

More than two dozen diplomats are visiting Indian-administered Kashmir, New Delhi said, as the country tries to reassure foreign allies following several months of unrest in the contested territory. The group includes European diplomats, some of whom declined a previous invitation from New Delhi to visit the region. A proposed vote in the European Union parliament next month could chastise India for its actions in Kashmir. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-kashmir/european-diplomats-check-indias-loosening-of-kashmir-clampdown-idUSKBN2061PA) The Muslim-majority Himalayan region is claimed by India and arch-rival Pakistan and has been in turmoil since New Delhi stripped it of special status and clamped down on communication and freedom of movement in August. India has since eased those restrictions, and restored limited internet connectivity last month, ending one of the world’s longest such shutdowns in a democracy. But many political leaders, including three former chief ministers of Jammu & Kashmir state, are still in detention without charge six months after the crackdown, and foreign journalists have so far been denied permission to visit the region.

Newsline: US allows its diplomats in Hong Kong to leave

The US may become the first country to pull its diplomats and expatriates out of Hong Kong after reports that staff at its consulate general can choose to return home if they feel the coronavirus in the city may affect them. The consulate stressed in a reply to media inquiries that the measure was merely a “precautionary one” and that those who left for home, mostly non-essential personnel, did so of their own volition and that most services at the consulate would remain normal. (https://www.asiatimes.com/2020/02/article/us-allows-its-diplomats-in-hong-kong-to-leave/) It is understood that Consul General Hanscom Smith and other senior consuls and attachés are not packing to leave. The consulate added that the State Department also offered options for employees dispatched to the city to leave or remain during the 2003 SARS outbreak. Those who wished to return to the US would have their flights paid for and would work from there. Some chose to leave because of “practical reasons” like school closures in the city, according to the South China Morning Post and other local papers.