Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 6, 2012

Newsline: Russia accuses US ambassador of arrogance

Moscow’s relentless criticism of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul reached a new height this week when the foreign minister accused him of arrogance. Sergey Lavrov said that Mr. McFaul was “very arrogant” in appearing to dismiss Russia’s concern about U.S. missile-defense plans for Europe in an interview the ambassador gave Tuesday with the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency. The foreign minister’s censure was the highest-ranking criticism of Mr. McFaul since he arrived in Moscow three months ago. Most of the previous complaints came from pro-Kremlin sources in the Russian media. The onslaught of criticism started after Mr. McFaul met with Russian opposition leaders in January. In his interview with RIA Novosti, Mr. McFaul was asked about Russia’s concern that the U.S. missile-defense shield for Europe would undermine Moscow’s own nuclear arsenal and disrupt the balance of power. “We are going to accept no limitations on that whatsoever because the security of our people, of our allies, is the No. 1 priority,” the ambassador said. Mr. McFaul reiterated the U.S. position that the defense system is designed to protect Europe and the United States from missile attacks from rogue states like Iran and North Korea. The United States has “no interest in building a missile-defense system against Russia’s nuclear arsenal,” he added. Mr. Lavrov dismissed the ambassador’s assurances, and lectured him on the proper role of an ambassador and the need to consult with the Russian government. “Our colleague, the U.S. ambassador, made a very arrogant statement that there will be no changes on the missile-defense system, but as an ambassador he should understand that interests of the other state should also be taken into account,” he said. In his interview, Mr. McFaul also downplayed President Obama’s comment to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would be more “flexible” on missile-defense if he is re-elected in November. The two men thought they were speaking privately, but their remarks were picked up on a microphone as they were talking in Seoul, where they attended an annual conference on nuclear security. Mr. McFaul said the president’s comment “means were are going to build whatever missile-defense system we need.” Mr. Obama’s critics have accused him of planning to make more concessions to the incoming Russian president, Vladimir Putin.



Newsline: Syrian embassy in Lebanon accused of smuggling weapons

Lebanese security forces apprehended two days ago a Lebanese military vehicle put at the disposal of the Syrian embassy transporting unlicensed weapons toward Syria, Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Friday. The daily also said that the vehicle had the license plate of a Syrian embassy vehicle and that an officer previously accused of abducting Syrian dissidents was inside. Syrian activists have claimed that the Syrian Embassy in Lebanon is complicit in the mysterious disappearances of a number of Syrians in Lebanon.


Consular affairs: Indian missions in US outsource passport services

The Indian embassy and its consulates in other parts of the country have, like many missions in other parts of the world, outsourced passport related services. Outsourcing Agency VFS Global would begin its operations for the embassy in Washington, and for the consulates general in Chicago and New York from April 16, the embassy announced Thursday. For the consulates general at Houston and San Francisco, the operations would begin from April 30. In Washington The VFS Global website http://www.vfsglobal.com/india/usa and a Call Centre number 202-800-7412 would be functional from April 9 for providing assistance to passport services seekers. Miscellaneous services like attestation of power of attorney would continue to be extended by the embassy and consulates general of India directly, for which no prior appointment is required.


Newsline: Spanish embassy in Zimbabwe cancels cultural programmes

The Spanish Embassy has cancelled all its cultural programmes following the death of its ambassador to Zimbabwe, Pilar Fuertes Ferragut in a car accident last Monday while on holiday in Namibia. The announcement was made by the embassy in a statement via the electronic mail to those who had been invited to the cultural programmes. “Due to the sudden and tragic passing away of H.E. Pilar Fuertes Ferragut, Ambassador of Spain, please be advised that all cultural activities of the Embassy of Spain have been cancelled until further notice,” reads one of the e-mail. In another e-mail, mourners were informed to visit the embassy and sign their condolences messages in a Book of Condolences which ends today. The events cancelled include the reading of the Young Women’s Open Forumand “The Trek and other stories,” written by Lawrence Hoba as part of their Second Edition of the Book Club, which were supposed to have been held on April 3 and 4 respectively.