Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February, 2012

Newsline: EU and Ukraine trade blame over ambassador’s remarks

Ukraine has given a political thumping to the EU ambassador in Kiev in what is amounting to a bad week for relations with ex-Soviet neighbours. Its foreign ministry summoned him to give explanations after he criticised President Viktor Yanukovych at a business conference. It also published a statement saying he does not know how to do his job. “The public statements of the EU ambassador to Ukraine Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira … do not correspond to the traditions of international relations in diplomacy,” it said. “The issue is not just the tone of ambassador Teixeira’s remarks, but the fact that a person sent to Ukraine as a diplomat … is trying to get involved in the political process.” For its part, the EU’s External Action Service said on Wednesday: “The comment from the foreign ministry is an unfounded attack on the personal integrity and professionalism of the ambassador and we categorically reject it. Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira has the full confidence of the EU.” Texeira’s crime was to tell businessmen that Yanukovych broke election promises on improving the investment climate – a sore point amid widespread reports of high-level corruption. The Portuguese-origin diplomat frequently annoys the administration with outspoken criticism. The latest war-of-words comes the same week as Belarus expelled two EU ambassadors, prompting all 27 EU envoys to quit the country in protest.



Newsline: Switzerland temporarily closes embassy in Damascus

Switzerland said Wednesday it has temporarily closed its embassy in Damascus for security reasons as violence in Syria continued despite growing international pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “Swiss citizens living in Syria were given due notice that the embassy would be closed and consular services transferred to Beirut,” the Swiss Foreign Ministry said in a statement, citing “reasons of security”. On February 15, Switzerland announced its intention to close the embassy, without a giving specific date. The Swiss ambassador to Syria was recalled to Bern in August 2011 for consultations and never returned to Damascus. Then in late November, the Foreign Ministry urged Swiss nationals to leave Syria as soon as possible. Some 150 of the 180 Swiss registered with the embassy are still in Syria. The vast majority of Swiss citizens in Syria – 147 people, or nearly 80 percent – are dual nationals.


Newsline: Chinese Embassy Interfering with Performance at London Theatre

London is the latest place for this interference, where the local promoters say that the Chinese Embassy has been putting pressure on the upper management of the theatre. The promoters say that last year the London Chinese Embassy sent staff to the theatre to try to convince them not to host Shen Yun. This year, the Embassy has again been interfering, they say, fitting a global pattern. Shen Yun is due to perform at the London Coliseum from April 12th-15th, promoted by the UK Falun Dafa Association. The Association’s vice president professor Li Shao says that the regime is frightened of Shen Yun. “The Chinese communist regime is atheist, and spent years trying to destroy the very culture and values that Shen Yun is bringing back to life so successfully.” Just last month in South Korea, the Chinese Vice Consulate and other consulate staff spoke with the local governments and theatres in Goyang and Gaegu demanding the cancellation of the rental contracts with the local Shen Yun promoter. The consular employees also called TV stations and told them that the performance had been cancelled and to stop broadcasting advertisements. Two years ago, in Moldova the Chinese regime threatened to withdraw loans promised to the government unless they pressured the theatre into cancelling Shen Yun. In some places such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the consulate has written letters to local government officials encouraging them not to attend Shen Yun shows.


Newsline: Europe united in diplomatic move to isolate Belarus

Europe has been united by a diplomatic row. The bloc has agreed to recall member states’ ambassadors from Minsk in a move which will be seen to further isolate Belarus. The EU has reacted in solidarity in a tit-for-tat manner after Belarus had called on the head of the bloc’s delegation to the country and the ambassador of Poland to return to their capitals for consultations. That action was prompted by new sanctions adopted by the EU to punish Minsk’s human rights record. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle fired a broadside at President Alexander Lukashenko. “This is the last dictatorship, this is the last dictator in Europe, and we will not let ourselves be intimidated by such actions against one European institutions or against one member state. We will not let others divide us. The dictator fools himself when he thinks he can divide us,” he said.


Newsline: Israel Appoints First Ethiopian-Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia

The Foreign Ministry’s appointments committee announced Zevadia’s appointment to Addis Ababa. The 44-year-old will be Israel’s first Ethiopian-born ambassador. “It is a great honor to be appointed ambassador, and especially the first ambassador from the Ethiopian community,” she said. “I made aliya as a youth and am returning to Ethiopia as an ambassador.”


Newsline: Iran’s Foreign Ministry summons Azerbaijani Ambassador to protest ‘Creeping Zionist Influence’ In Caucasus

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Azerbaijani Ambassador Javanshir Akhundov to explain Azerbaijan’s purchase of some $1.6 billion of weapons from Israel. The summons came in response to recent reports that Israel is selling drones, antiaircraft missiles and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan. Akhundov confirmed the purchase but said Azerbaijan needed the weapons to “liberate occupied Azerbaijani land,” a clear reference to Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave currently occupied by pro-Armenian political authorities. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi also warned Akhundov not to allow Israel to use Azerbaijani territory as a safe haven to launch “terrorist acts” against Iran. Earlier this month Iran accused Azerbaijan of allowing Israeli spies to use Azerbaijani territory, a charge Baku rejected as “slander.” Azerbaijan last week arrested an unspecified number of people Baku said were linked to Iran who were planning attacks in Azerbaijan. Those arrests came about the same time there were reported attempts to kill Israeli diplomats in India, Thailand and Georgia. On February 28, Iranian ambassador to Armenia Seyid Ali Saqqaiyan was quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency as saying in a speech that there is a “creeping influence of Zionists and foreigners in the South Caucasus region.” Saqqaiyan spoke of the “activities of the enemy in Azerbaijan over the recent period.”


Newsline: Controversy in Tanzania over Rome embassy building purchase

Former Tanzanian ambassador to Italy Prof Costa Ricky Mahalu (63) told Kisutu Resident Magistrate’s Court that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation was aware of the two contracts used in purchasing an embassy building in Rome. Mahalu, who is the first witness in the corruption case he faces along with his assistant, former consular Grace Martin, revealed this when making his defence before presiding principal resident magistrate Ilvin Mgeta. Prof Mahalu and Martin are charged in a high profile grand corruption case with causing the Tanzanian government a loss of euros 2m during the purchase of the embassy building over ten years ago. He told the court that, he communicated with then Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Jakaya Kikwete [now President of the United Republic of Tanzania] about the process of purchasing the embassy along with two draft contracts. Prof Mahalu added that after the arrangement, Kikwete met with the owner of the building who told him about the two contracts when he visited the building in December 2001. Led by his defense counsel Mabere Marando, Mahalu told the court that, the Minister reminded him to make sure that the money was paid soon before other people bid for the same building and win it. He added that the owner of the building during the discussion with Kikwete insisted to be paid USD one million, as commitment fee and the Minister assured her that the money would be paid before the end of the year. He further said that, Kikwete visited the building when he was attending a SADC meeting in December 2001.