Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for September 8, 2011

Newsline: 9/11 ‘Talking Points’ for U.S.diplomats

Top spokesmen for the Obama administration defended the White Houses issuance of talking points designed to shape how federal officials in this country and American diplomats serving abroad frame the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The guidelines, which were first reported by The New York Times, encompassed two sets of instructions: one drawn up chiefly for domestic consumption, the other geared primarily toward foreign audiences and disseminated to U.S. Embassy officers throughout the world. This is not unusual, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, adding that the Bush administration had issued press guidance for federal officials on the occasions of the second and fifth anniversaries of Sept. 11 which Nuland repeatedly referred to in her briefing from the State Department podium as nine-one-one. Nuland said the advisory to overseas ambassadors and their consular staff was motivated primarily to ensure that embassies are marking the event, that they are having joint events in their host country to stand together against terrorism, and ensure that the day is marked appropriately internationally. Still, the documents, as reported in the Times contained some unusual elements. One set of guidelines urged U.S. officials to minimize references to Al-Qaeda. The documents cited the killing of Usama bin Laden as evidence that the terror network that plotted and executed the Sept. 11 attacks is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Another talking point instructed American officials overseas to seek to universalize the commemorative day by noting: We honor all victims of terrorism, in every nationwhether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London. The same document reminded readers: A chief goal of our communications is to present a positive, forward-looking narrative.




Commentary: Israelis question wisdom of no apology to Turkey

Prominent members of Israeli society, varying from bank governors to politicians and columnists, have begun to loudly question whether their government made the right move by not caving into Turkey’s demands for the normalization of bilateral relations with their country. Israeli media has given place to a considerable number of articles reviewing the dire consequences of Israel’s refusal to offer an apology and compensation to Turkey since Ankara on Friday ejected the Israeli ambassador after Israel refused to apologize for a deadly military raid on a Gaza-bound ship that killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American last year.Israelexpressed regret for the loss of lives, but was not prepared to apologize for upholding its naval blockade on Hamas-ruledGaza, which the ship had tried to breach. The dispute has brought relations between the once-close allies to the verge of collapse, and injected a new element of instability into an already volatile region, prompting different voices in Israel to speak against their government’s stubbornness. Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was one of those voices. “I’m the last one who would say that the statements made by Turkish prime ministers and chief representatives over the last two years and the last few days are music to my ears,” Olmert said late on Sunday while speaking at a regional conference held in Tel Aviv. “But based on my personal and intimate acquaintance with this leadership, I would like to say — it isn’t automatically and necessarily an enemy of Israel. Delivering a speech at the same conference on Monday, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer warned that the consequences of not having trade relations with Turkey would be expensive for Israel.  “The consequences of not having trading relations with Turkey will be expensive,” Fischer said. An analysis published by leading Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post also focused on what losing Turkey’s friendship meant for Israel as a country surrounded with high security concerns in the volatile Middle East region. The article penned by Yaakov Katz and titled “More to lose in crisis with Turkey than meets the eye,” argued that for Israel, “Turkey was more than just a country with airspace and waters in which to train.” “In short, Israel could be losing not only a diplomatic and military ally but also a partner in the war on terror. This could mean that Israel will not have someone to pass on information to in the event that it knows of plans to perpetrate attacks in Turkey or elsewhere in the region, and that the Turks might no longer have as strong an interest in intercepting weapons shipments that may pass through their country on their way to Iran’s various terror proxies,” Katz said.



Commentary: Former diplomats question move to display Queen’s picture in all embassies

While monarchists are applauding the government’s decision to have all Canadian embassies display the Queen’s portrait, former diplomats say the move will confuse foreigners and hurt efforts to promote the country abroad. In the past, visitors to Canadian diplomatic missions around the world were greeted with portraits of key Canadian officials, including the prime minister and foreign minister. However, when it came to displaying Canada’s head of state, the Governor General was generally given preference over the Queen. Foreign Minister John Baird’s office confirmed that it had ordered the monarch’s portrait to be raised in all of Canada’s 260 embassies, high commissions, consulates and trade offices. “Like virtually every other country in the world who display pictures of their head of state in their missions,” said Baird’s spokesman, Rick Roth, “we expect all Canadian missions abroad to display pictures of Canada’s head of state — the Queen — along with the Governor General, the prime minister and relevant ministers.” This is only the latest effort by the government to highlightCanada’s links to the monarchy. In July, two Canadian paintings were taken down in the lobby of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Ottawa and replaced by a portrait of the Queen. And last month, the government renamed the air force and navy the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy. However, former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker said it has been decades since a government promotedCanada’s relationship with theUnited Kingdomand the monarchy, during which time the country has worked hard to market itself as an independent state. Therefore, the sudden appearance of the Queen in Canadian missions, he said, “will confuse the hell out of people.” “People don’t understand our attachment to the Queen,” he said. “They find it kind of bizarre, and certainly they find it anachronistic. And except perhaps in theUnited Kingdom, I don’t see how this will advance our interests in any country in the world.” For many foreigners, Heinbecker said, the move will tieCanadacloser to theU.K.— which is not a good thing in countries that were colonized and still bear strong resentment over the experience. Former diplomat Daryl Copeland said it will also make the job of diplomats charged with marketing Canada abroad more difficult. “The whole thing about trying to brand yourself as a country is you want to find an image and a reputation that has attitude, that has soul and that has distinctiveness,” he said. “And because the Queen happens to be the head of state in so many countries, not just the U.K. but the whole Commonwealth, introducing that kind of imagery would likely dilute the distinctiveness of your brand.”