Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for October 23, 2011

Newsline: Israel considering relocating embassy in Cairo

Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Yitzhak Levanon on Sunday said Israel is considering moving its embassy in Cairo to another location in the city, Israel Radio reported. “Israelis considering moving the embassy building in Egypt to another location over concerns for the safety of its diplomats,” said Levanon, according to the report. Israeli diplomats were evacuated from the Embassy in Cairo in September when hundreds of Egyptian protesters attacked the complex. The protesters were incensed by the accidental killing of five Egyptian soldiers by IDF forces pursuing terrorists across the border following a complicated terrorist attack near Eilat. Levanon said it is still not known when Israeli diplomats are expected to return toCairo, the report said. Earlier this month Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a formal apology to Egypt for the accidental deaths of the Egyptian soldiers, which Egypt then accepted.




Newsline: Saudi embassy advises nationals not to visit downtown Beirut

Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Sunday that the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon advised its nationals not to visit Downtown Beirut. The daily also reported that the embassy took the decision due to “the annoyances that some Saudi residents were subjected to in Downtown Beirut.” Several weeks ago, a group of Lebanese youths beat a Saudi prince in downtown Beirut when he refused to move his car from a no-parking spot and told the traffic officer that “the Downtown area belongs to Saudis,” according to Al-Akhbar newspaper.



Newsline: N.Z. embassy in South Korea aims to maximize impact of Rugby World Cup

For the past few weeks, about 4 billion viewers worldwide have been captivated by the Rugby World Cup played in New Zealand. Rugbyis virtually unknown here in Korea except for games played at the local universities, military academies and expat teams such as the Seoul Survivors Rugby Club. Yet, the International Rugby Board sees the Asian continent as an area of growth for the sport. “Japanis already quite strong and getting stronger, they will be hosting the next World Cup, so there is no reason why it won’t pick up in Korea or China, ”New Zealand Ambassador and avid rugby fan Richard Mann told The Korea Herald. To assist the sport in spreading its wings inAsia, the International Rugby Board organizes promotional events paid for by the revenue generated from the World Cup. “That’s important because at its top level it is a professional sport,” noted Mann. In Korea, particularlySeoul, the seeds have been planted for children to learn and appreciate playing the game through the Han River Pirates volunteer club which is run by families for children to learn and play touch rugby. The figures are still being tallied, but the Rugby World Cup is set to have a deep economic impact on New Zealand. Studies by Britain’s Coventry University Business School and New Zealand’s Reserve Bank estimated anywhere from 85,000-95,000 overseas visitors would spend about $650 million during the six-week tournament. The long-term legacy of the games would be even more valuable with tourism and business getting a $1.2 billion boost, a welcome prospect as the country struggles with the economic crisis still lingering in its main export markets of Europe and North America and the estimated $15 billion cost to rebuild Christchurch after a devastating earthquake in February.



Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Kenya warns citizens of ‘imminent threat’

The U.S. Embassy in Kenya warned American citizens Saturday of an “imminent threat of terrorist attacks” after Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia to pursue suspected Islamic militants from Al-Shabaab. “This is to informU.S.citizens residing in or visitingKenyathat the U.S. Embassy inKenyahas received credible information of an imminent threat of terrorist attacks directed at prominent Kenyan facilities and areas where foreigners are known to congregate, such as malls and night clubs,” the U.S. Embassy said in an emergency message. It added that it has taken measures to limit officialU.S.government visits and that citizens should consider deferring travel to Kenya. Al-Shabaab, which is linked to al Qaeda and has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is fighting to impose its own interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia, on Somalia. The group has said it considers the Kenyan forces crossing the border as “an affront to Somalia’s territorial sovereignty.” It previously threatened to “come into Kenya” if Kenyan forces did not leave Somalia. Recent abductions of tourists and aid workers inKenyahave heightened tensions. On September 11, armed bandits broke into a beachfront cottage where Britons Judith and David Tebbutt, both in their 50s, were staying. David Tebbutt was shot dead while trying to resist the attack. His wife was grabbed and spirited away on a speedboat, and is believed to have been taken into Somalia. On October 1, pirates made another cross-border raid, this time snatching a French woman in her 60s, who used a wheelchair and was believed to be in bad health, from a holiday home on Manda Island where she lived part of the year. She later died, likely because of the kidnappers’ refusal to give her medicine, according to the French Foreign Ministry. Al-Shabaab has denied responsibility for the abductions.



Commentary: The Saudi Ambassador of Sangfroid

There were women who lost their heads over Adel al-Jubeir, back when the Saudi ambassador was a charming playboy. Given that his father was a diplomat too – one of the first Saudis to have a college degree – maybe the 49-year-old’s equanimity is in his genes. He is far more understated than his flamboyant predecessor, Prince Bandar, who was so plugged into the Bush dynasty he was known as “Bandar Bush.” Jubeir stayed cool even when American officials informed him several months ago about the latest stunning chapter in theSaudi Arabia-versus-IranGreat Game for supremacy in theMiddle East: an outlandish plot by an Iranian-American used-car dealer inTexaswho said his cousin was a senior member of the Iranian Quds Force. As evidence mounted of money transfers and taped conversations, Jubeir accepted that, as President Obama said, the plot was “paid by and directed by individuals in the Iranian government.”Irandenies that, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Fareed Zakaria: “Do we really need to kill the ambassador of a brotherly country?”  “It went from ‘I can’t believe this,’ ” the ambassador said with a dry smile, “to ‘Man, these guys really know how to ruin a man’s day.’ ” He had to force himself to live a normal existence for months, not telling family or staff, until a criminal complaint was unveiled and theTexascar dealer was before a judge. Gathering his shaken staff in the embassy, he said: “Nothing befalls us except that which God has written for us. If anything, it should reinforce our resolve. Otherwise the bad guys win.” He got a standing ovation. His family was “shocked” and his frightened twin 9-year-old daughters called his office to grill him. He reassured them that there was “a bad guy but no danger.” Still, they pressed: “O.K., when are you coming home?”‘ I asked if he thought he was targeted because of his tough position onIran, underscored in a 2008 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks quoting him reiterating that King Abdullah wanted theU.S.to “cut off the head of the snake.” “You should ask the perpetrators, not me,” he said wryly. “We do what we have to do, and we can’t let issues like this deter us.”