Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 12, 2012

Newsline: US embassy confirms 2 Marines killed in Morocco training

The U.S. Embassy says two U.S. Marines were killed and two severely injured in the crash of a hybrid aircraft in Morocco on Wednesday. The Marines were taking part in joint U.S.-Moroccan military excercises located in the south of the country based in Agadir. Osprey, which takes off and lands like a helicopter and flies like an airplane. The aircraft was participating in a U.S.-Moroccan military exercise known as “African Lion.” The annual exercise which began in 2008 runs from April 7 to 18 and involves 1,000 U.S. Marines and 200 soldiers, sailors and airmen working with some 900 Moroccan soldiers.



Newsline: Mexican embassy to help repatriate crash victims

The Mexican embassy in Washington says it plans to assist in repatriating the bodies of nine suspected illegal immigrants killed when the van they were packed in rolled in South Texas. Authorities say the vehicle designed to carry eight people had at least 19 occupants when it crashed Tuesday night after the driver sped away from a Border Patrol traffic stop in Palmview, about 10 miles from McAllen. The embassy was contacting relatives of the victims. Most of the dead were from the southern state of Oaxaca. The embassy would not release identities because of privacy issues.


Commentary: One in 40 UK diplomats fluent in language of country in which they work

Just one in 40 British diplomats is fluent in the language of the country where they work with the majority lacking even basic grasp sufficient for day-to-day exchanges. Britain could be losing out on lucrative trade deals as a result, MPs fear. They say the drought is in part the legacy of a decision by Gordon Brown’s Treasury to close the Foreign Office language school in order to save £1m a year. In India, whose government this year declared France the preferred bidder over the UK to build 126 fighter jets in a £7bn deal, just one UK diplomat can speak Hindi. In Pyongyang, North Korea, five British diplomats are posted and are encouraging the regime to drop its nuclear programme. Just one can speak a beginner’s level of Korean. Figures show that 48 of Britain’s 1,900 diplomats receive extra pay because they have an ‘extensive’ grip of a language, meaning they are close to communicating like a native. Another 145 have an ‘operational’ grasp, meaning they can live a day-to-day life in the country but may struggle with technical or academic information. Fifteen are recognised as having language ‘confidence’ – defined as being able to read road signs and book a hotel room. But some 1690 staff, or 90 per cent of the Diplomatic Service, have no recognised language abilities for the country where they are posted. There are no diplomats registered as speaking Latvian in Riga, the capital of the European Union’s fastest growing economy. There is only one Arabic-speaking diplomat registered in each of Britain’s embassies in oil-rich Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Similarly there is only one diplomat with a grasp of the local language in each of Britain’s missions to Afghanistan and Pakistan. By contrast, almost half of Australia’s diplomatic service are proficient in local languages. The figures were uncovered by Conservative MP Stephen Barclay, who sits on the Public Accounts Select Committee. The Foreign Office language school was reopened last year by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary. Its closure in 2007 was dubbed “moronic” and “profoundly mistaken” by Foreign Office insiders at the time. Charles Crawford, the former British ambassador to Poland and a speaker of Serbian, Russian, Afrikaans and French has volunteered his services to the school.