Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for April 2, 2012

Newsline: Allegations of spying by Syrian diplomats in EU cause alarm

The Belgian foreign ministry is to investigate allegations that Syrian intelligence services are terrorising Syrian opposition expats in the EU capital. Foreign minister Didier Reynders told Belgian Liberal MEP Louis Michel on Friday (30 March) that he will personally look into claims that Syrian diplomats in Brussels have threatened people who take part in anti-regime rallies that their families in Syria will be harmed unless they stop. The allegations center around Wael Saker – a diplomatic “attache” at the Syrian embassy. Saker is said to be a senior officer in the Syrian “mukhabarat” (intelligence services) and that he operates a network of Syrian and Lebanese-origin “shabiha” (agents/militia) who infiltrate anti-regime groups to collect names, make threatening phonecalls and go to some anti-regime rallies to try to provoke violence. The Syrian embassy said in a written statement: “Those old accusations are unfounded. Some people are trying to market them in order to harm the national role of Syrian embassies … but we challenge anyone to come even with one proof.” On the shabiha allegation, it said: “Syrian expatriates in their vast majority have expressed their fabulous feelings and stands [sic] in solidarity with their country in these difficult circumstances.” It added there is “no institutional link with the embassy” and pro-regime NGOs in Belgium, such as the Association of Syrian Expatriates.



Newsline: Yemen’s radical cleric escapes arrest in US embassy

Radical cleric Sheik Abdel Mageed al-Zindani allegedly was inside the U.S. Embassy grounds in Yemen after barely escaping arrest. Republican Guards said they had ordered Zindani be arrested after receiving information Sunday his car convoy would be driving by the Sheraton Hotel, near the U.S. Embassy. Zindani, listed as a terrorist by the United States for suspected links to al-Qaida, escaped arrest but his convoy drove onto the embassy grounds, where he was Monday. Ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh had ordered his son, Ahmed Ali Saleh, the head of the Republican Guards, to target Zindani. After Zindani expressed support for the uprising to oust Saleh, the then-president issued a warrant for his arrest last year.


Newsline: Argentina’s embassy warns banks supporting Falklands’ oil industry

As many as 15 British and US banks have received warning letters by the Argentine embassy in London about possible legal action over giving advice or even writing research reports about companies involved in the Falkland Islands’ nascent oil industry. The letters, written in Spanish, are aimed at cutting financial support for the five London-listed exploration companies looking for oil in the region, including Rockhopper Exploration, Borders & Southern, Falkland Oil & Gas, Desire Petroleum and Argos Resources. The banks targeted by the embassy include both those that have undertaken advisory and fundraising roles for the explorers and those that have written research notes on the subject. The unsigned letters said the institutions, which include Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays Capital and Goldman Sachs, could face criminal and civil action in the Argentine courts. The two-page letter, to which a schedule of legal declarations about the Malvinas’ ownership are attached, is intended to warn off the banks from any further involvement in the South Atlantic oil industry. Argentina has already said it would penalize companies which work with oil drillers exploring offshore the islands in the South Atlantic. Verbal sparring over the sovereignty of the Islands has heated up in recent months ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands conflict.


Newsline: Egypt refuses to rent building to Israeli embassy

Israel’s embassy in Cairo has been operating out of a temporary residence for the past seven months because Egypt is refusing to sell or rent out a building to Israel. Israel’s ambassador to Cairo Yaakov Amitai has been working out of his hotel room since Israel cleared out its embassy building in Egypt last week. Israel has not used the embassy since the attack in September, when protesters ransacked one of the embassy’s offices, dumping Hebrew-language documents out a window and trapping six Israeli staff members inside for several hours. The protests were in response to the killing of six Egyptian police officers near the border by Israeli forces. The Egyptian security expert further said that “the current crisis derives from the fact that every time the Israeli embassy finds a new embassy building, the owners’ then refuse to sell or rent the property after finding out who the buyer is.”