Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March, 2012

Newsline: Belgium closes embassy in Syria

Belgium decided Thursday to close its embassy in Damascus due to security concerns and in protest at the Syrian regime’s violent repression of dissent. The mission will close Saturday when the ambassador leaves Syria while the first secretary will move into an office in the European Union delegation, the Belgian foreign ministry said. Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders also decided to downgrade diplomatic relations to the level of charge d’affaire. Belgium follows the lead of other EU nations including Britain, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, which closed their embassies along with the United States, Turkey, Japan and Gulf states.



Newsline: Frenchman suspected in Indonesian embassy blast

A French militant was allegedly involved in last week’s bomb blast at Indonesia’s Embassy in Paris, a top anti-terrorism official said Thursday, citing intercepted emails and online chats. The package bomb that exploded March 21 did not cause any injuries or major damage to the building. Indonesia’s anti-terrorism agency chief Ansyaad Mbai told The Associated Press that French investigators had confirmed that Frederic C. Jean Salvi, who allegedly spent several years studying with Islamic militants in this predominantly Muslim nation, was the main suspect. The attack was apparently meant as a warning to Indonesia to stop a U.S. and Australia-funded security crackdown that has resulted in the arrests, convictions and imprisonment of hundreds of Islamic militants in recent years.


Newsline: Saudi diplomat kidnapped in Yemen

A Saudi diplomat was kidnapped on his way to work in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden. It was the first kidnapping of a Saudi diplomat in this impoverished country, where abductions are frequent and where armed tribesmen and al-Qaeda-linked militants take hostages in an effort to swap them for prisoners or cash. The security official identified the diplomat as Abdullah al-Khaldi, the deputy consul at the Saudi consulate in Aden. No more details were immediately available. The Yemeni official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. It was not clear whether the abduction had any political motives.


Newsline: Foreign Office talks about British man’s mysterious death in China

What’s been remarkably noticeable about the death of Neil Heywood is that no one wants to talk on camera about the circumstances of his death. The UK Embassy is now referring questions about the circumstances surrounding his death to the London press office at the Foreign and Commonwealth office (FCO). The FCO is now not denying that the police chief in Chongqing, Wang Lijun, tried to have a meeting with diplomats at the UK Consulate back in early February. Government sources say he didn’t come to the Consulate. We do know he then pops up at the US Consulate in Chengdu, some 200 miles away. The suggestion is that Wang raised suspicions or concerns about the death of Neil Heywood. As police chief of the city where the British man died he would have had access to important details about the case. It’s some time after Wang seeks asylum at the US Consulate, it’s believed, when the UK Embassy asks the Chinese to investigate Neil Heywood’s death. Any investigation is going to be complicated by the fact that Mr Heywood’s body was cremated soon after his death and no post mortem was carried out.


Newsline: US official to discuss embassy security in Baku

US Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Safety Erick Boswell is to pay a visit to Azerbaijan next week. Boswell overseas programs for provision of security of American state officials and facilities abroad to ensure their protection from terror and other attacks and of the confidential information of these facilities. During the upcoming Baku talks, the parties will speak about the recent neutralization by Azerbaijani security bodies of a group of persons accused of preparation of terror attacks against US and Israeli citizens in Azerbaijan at the order of Iranian security bodies.


Newsline: Free WiFi for Philippine embassy clients in Kuala Lumpur

Filipino consular applicants at the Philippine embassy in Malaysia may avail of free Internet access via Wi-Fi, the Department of Foreign Affairs said. The DFA said the Wi-Fi facilities were opened to the public, as part of the Embassy’s efforts to improve services to the public. “We recognize that the time of our consular clients and other guests is highly valuable. Even while we work to shorten our processing time, we would like them to be able to continually communicate electronically with others,” Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya said. He said applicants may now use their mobile computers and smartphones while waiting to be served. The DFA said the free Wi-Fi service was a big hit among the community members. Last December, the Embassy launched its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/PhlembassyKL. On the other hand, the DFA said the Philippine Embassy is one of the few Philippine embassies around the world that provides free Wi Fi services to its consular clients.


Newsline: Bolivia seizes weapons from US Embassy vehicle

Bolivia’s interior minister says his government has seized three shotguns, a revolver and more than 2,300 rounds of ammunition from a vehicle owned by the U.S. Embassy. The minister claims the weapons were being transported without authorization. But the U.S. Embassy says the weapons confiscated Tuesday were being transferred under an agreement with Bolivia’s police. It said in a statement that Washington routinely contracts and arms local police in foreign countries to protect its diplomats. Interior Minister Carlos Romero told reporters that the vehicle’s driver and a police officer accompanying him were detained pending investigation.