Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 4, 2011

Newsline: US asks Pakistan to meet international obligation and release diplomat

US has asked Pakistan to meet its “international obligations” and release the American diplomat, who is accused of double murder, as he has “diplomatic immunity”. The US diplomat, identified as Raymond Davis, is accused of shooting two Pakistani men to death last week. A Pakistani court has extended his detention by eight days. “We continue to encourage the government of Pakistan to release our diplomat. He has diplomatic immunity, and Pakistan needs to meet its international obligations,” state department spokesman P J Crowley told reporters. The United States has still not identified Davis as the diplomat in custody.



Newsline: Families of victims of US diplomat backtrack on commitment

Families of two alleged robbers shot and killed by a US diplomat backtracked on a commitment that they would be amenable to the American being swapped for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist sentenced to 86 years in prison in the United States for terror links. The families of the men gunned down by US consulate employee Raymond Davis demanded the registration of a case under the Anti-Terrorism Act against the American. “We will not allow the government to hand over Davis to the US,” a relative of Muhammad Fahim, one of the two men who died in the shooting incident in Lahore last week, said at a news conference here. The families announced they would organise a rally to the US consulate in Lahore to register their protest. On Monday, Fahim’s father Shamshad Ali had said that Davis could be handed over to the US if American authorities released Siddiqui and withdrew the charges against her. “They (US authorities) should release Aafia or see Davis hanged,” he had then said, rejecting all other options, including monetary compensation. A US court sentenced Siddiqui last year to 86 years in prison after convicting her for shooting at FBI agents and American soldiers while in custody in Afghanistan. Several Pakistani political leaders and parliamentarians have suggested that Davis, arrested after he shot and killed two men, who he claimed were trying to rob him, should be swapped for Siddiqui.



Newsline: As Crisis Unfolds Overseas, U.S. Diplomats Gathered in Washington

Nearly all the top United States diplomats from around the world met here on Wednesday, summoned by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to consider new strategies to energize diplomacy and streamline development, but their arrival coincided with one of the most tumultuous moments for American diplomacy in recent memory. The extraordinary convening of top diplomatic minds had been meant to take place at a slow time of year, Mrs. Clinton wryly told the meeting of nearly 300 ambassadors and heads of mission in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the State Department. “What better time to pull you from your posts and responsibilities?” she asked, to laughter. Reflecting the ferment in the Middle East, there was one notable absentee: Margaret Scobey, the ambassador to Egypt, who remained in Cairo. The meeting, in fact, came at a time of high challenge for the department on many fronts beyond Cairo and other embattled Arab capitals, a part of the world where many career diplomats have seen service. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pose extreme demands. Congressional pressure for budget cuts is unusually sharp. And the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures continues to complicate diplomats’ day-to-day work. Mrs. Clinton called the meeting a “first-ever in American history all-hands-on-deck ambassadorial conference.” The department’s various bureaus have long convened ambassadors in their respective regions on a regular basis. These days, owing to post-Sept. 11 security concerns, these assemblies often occur in Washington. This week’s meeting, other than two major speeches, was closed to the press. But Craig Kelly, who until September was a deputy assistant secretary of state and involved in WikiLeaks-related issues, said Wednesday that he could not imagine that the unauthorized disclosures of sensitive diplomatic cables were not a major topic both of working groups and corridor talk.



Commentary: Frank Wisner, the Envoy Sent to Prod Mubarak

Once a month or so, a coterie of aging diplomats convenes at the elegant Metropolitan Club of New York. Over lunch in a glass-enclosed restaurant overlooking Central Park, they engage in verbal thrust and parry over the foreign policy issues of the day. The man who sits at the head of the table is Frank G. Wisner, a bald, barrel-chested, martini-drinking (he gave up cigars, friends say) 72-year-old retired ambassador and businessman. Like his lunch mates, he is of a distinct class in Washington: a corps of foreign policy realists who came of age in an era when American power reigned supreme, and who have the heft and experience to troubleshoot the crises of the moment. When the United States and Iran headed into a stalemate on nuclear issues during the administration of George W. Bush – who had branded Iran part of the “axis of evil” – Mr. Wisner was among several well-connected former officials pursuing a “track two” process of back-channel communications to find a way out. (The effort fizzled.) When Mr. Bush was contemplating war in Iraq, Mr. Wisner joined with Edward P. Djerejian, another fellow former ambassador, to publicly warn against it. Yet when Mr. Bush needed help bringing Kosovo to independence, his State Department deployed Mr. Wisner as chief negotiator there. (He was successful.) “He’s one of the supreme American diplomats of the last 30 to 40 years,” said R. Nicholas Burns, who oversaw the Kosovo talks as under secretary of state. This week, Mr. Wisner, whose stints around the globe have included four ambassadorships, one of them to Egypt, was briefly President Obama’s man in Cairo, charged with prodding an old friend, President Hosni Mubarak, to make his exit. How much effect he had was unclear. On Wednesday, as Mr. Mubarak resisted Mr. Obama’s demand for an immediate peaceful transition and each side dug in its heels, Mr. Wisner left the country.