Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 27, 2012

Newsline: UK builder wins £650m US embassy job

The reclusive family-owned builder behind a host of London landmarks including the Dorchester Hotel and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium is in line for the most cloak-and-dagger job of all — building the new US embassy. Sir Robert McAlpine is partnered with US contractor Harbert for the plum £650 million job at Nine Elms in Wandsworth, which is where the embassy will move in 2017 after leaving its Grosvenor Square home of almost 80 years. Harbert was appointed earlier this month since, under US State Department rules, a foreign firm is not allowed to carry out the works alone for security reasons. The embassy, designed by architects KieranTimberlake, will feature several landscaped defences including a moat around part of the building to protect against terrorist attacks.



Newsline: Bulgarian ambassador will not return in Minsk

Ivailo Ivanov has been appointed as Chargé d’affaires of the Bulgarian Embassy in Belarus. Ivanov’s appointment in Belarus takes place in the context of the overall restoration of the normal functioning of the diplomatic missions of European Union member states in Minsk, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has said in a statement. The diplomatic exodus of the EU Ambassadors from Minsk in February was the culmination of strained relations and the EU’s subsequent imposition of sanctions on Belarus. On February 29 2012, Bulgaria recalled its ambassador to the Republic of Belarus, Zachary Radukov.


Newsline: British Foreign Secretary denies businessman killed in China was a secret agent

The Foreign Secretary has denied that Neil Heywood, the British businessman thought to have been murdered in China, was a British secret agent. William Hague has written to a Commons committee to say Mr Heywood “was not an employee of the British government in any capacity”. He added that the businessman, who died in November, was only an occasional contact of the British Embassy in Beijing. Mr Heywood lived in China for a decade and was for several years close to Bo Xilai, an influential Chinese politician. Bo was sacked from the Chinese Politburo earlier this month and his wife, Gu Kailai, is the leading suspect in the British businessman’s death.


Newsline: Blind Chinese Dissident Escapes, Possibly to US Embassy

Chinese dissident lawyer Chen Guangcheng has escaped house arrest, according to the microblog of Nanjing-based activist He Peirong. The activist claims on her microblog that she aided Chen in his escape. Her posts have since been deleted. Chen, who is blind and reportedly in poor health, has been detained at his home in Linyi Prefecture, Shandong Province since 2010. Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, posted on his Twitter that Beijing-based activist Hu Jia has confirmed with an Associated Press staff member that Chen Guangcheng is now in the US Embassy in Beijing. AP’s official story said the US Embassy “would not comment,” on Chen Guangcheng’s whereabouts.


Newsline: US restricts embassy staff during Bin Laden anniversary

The US embassy in Islamabad banned its staff from restaurants and markets in Islamabad for several days either side of the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. The al Qaeda kingpin was killed in a US special forces raid in Abbottabad on May 2 last year and there are fears militants may mark the one-year anniversary with an attack. “Due to security concerns, the US embassy has restricted its employees from going to restaurants and markets in Islamabad April 27 – May 5,” a warning on the embassy website said. “We recommend that US citizens in Islamabad during this period take similar precautions.” A US official speaking on condition of anonymity said the warning was issued in response to information about a specific threat.


Newsline: Don’t lie to Beijing, DFA tells Chinese embassy

Is the Chinese embassy in the Philippines lying to Beijing about the ongoing Scarborough Shoal standoff that has now entered its 3rd week? The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) criticized statements on the issue that “are contrary to reality,” the subject of a note verbale it sent to the Chinese embassy. In the note verbale, the DFA singled out a supposed Chinese statement that the mainland has become “more assertive” after the Philippines allegedly broke an agreement on the pullout of fishing boats and ships from Scarborough Shoal. “The DFA pointed out that there has never been an agreement reached. The DFA is of the view that it was unfortunate that the Chinese response was based on an inaccurate appreciation of the facts and dynamics of the negotiations,” the DFA said in a statement. It also said the dialogue between the Philippines and China “must be based on complete trust and the confidence that information to be conveyed to the capitals must be an accurate rendition of facts.” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said the note verbale was referring to China’s statements in the Agence France-Presse story titled, “China summons PH diplomat over sea dispute,” published April 18. In the story, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said the Philippine military vessels’ alleged harassment of Chinese fishing vessels in Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island) has drawn China’s “high concern.”