Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for September 25, 2012

Newsline: Foreign ministers downplay shared Canada-U.K. embassies

Foreign ministers for Canada and the U.K. downplayed an agreement to share space in embassies around the world, amid criticism from opposition MPs in Ottawa. Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague was in Ottawa to announce an agreement between the two countries that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says will start with embassies in Haiti and Burma, and will allow civil servants to consider doing so in more countries as the need arises. “We are not moving to merge all of our embassies and consulates around the world. We are not going to be sharing ambassadors or trade commissioners,” Baird said. “Each country will continue to have complete independence on policy and Canadian public servants will always protect and promote Canada’s interests and Canada’s values. In select locations, this simply allows Canadian diplomats to do their good work faster and at a lower cost to Canadian taxpayers.” Hague said the two countries were expanding on an agreement announced last fall when British Prime Minister David Cameron was in Ottawa. “We are two countries with large diplomatic networks … but we can’t be everywhere,” Hague said. Hague said the agreement doesn’t change the two countries’ independence from each other. In question period, Baird referred to the agreement as “small” and “administrative.” The arrangement, he said, will allow a British diplomat to have an office at the Canadian Embassy in Haiti, where Britain now has no presence. At the same time, Canada can send a foreign service officer to Burma to work out of the British Embassy until the Canadian mission is established. Those are the only two countries included so far in the agreement. There is speculation in the U.K. that the agreement is meant to compete with efforts by the EU to co-ordinate its own diplomatic work. Hague denied that. This won’t be Canada’s first foray into sharing services. Canada and Australia have worked together in 26 locations around the world for years. Since Canada has pulled its diplomats out of Iran, Italy has offered to handle consular matters in Tehran.



Newsline: US, Egypt seek better ties after embassy protests

The United States and Egypt sought Monday to repair ties strained severely by a year-and-a-half of rapid change in the Middle East, culminating in the last two weeks with Egyptian demonstrators overrunning the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and President Barack Obama candidly remarking that the two countries were now neither enemies nor allies. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, in a New York hotel on Monday night, the highest-level meeting between the once stalwart Middle East partners since an American-made video ridiculing Islam prompted violent Egyptian protests on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. American officials said their discussions sought to strengthen a relationship that both see as vital. They particularly emphasized the importance of ensuring the security of diplomatic installations, said a senior U.S. official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the private meeting and requested anonymity. Morsi was criticized for his slow, initial response to the protests that ended with vandalism of the embassy and the American flag torn down, but the official stressed that U.S. officials see the Egyptian government’s protection since as reassuring. Morsi assured Clinton that embassy protection was “Egypt’s duty,” the official said.


Newsline: Germany Increases Embassies Security in the Middle East

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle announced that Germany has increased security at many of its diplomatic missions. Germany is taking precautions in response to Muslims who are growing increasingly violent toward the West. Islamic anger has mainly targeted America, but on September 14, angry Sudanese protesters stormed the German mission, broke windows, and set fire to the building. Germany has condemned the violence, but has not responded with force. The Khartoum embassy’s website says it is “closed until further notice.” Westerwelle declined to comment on precisely what Germany’s precautions are. “We have done everything within our means [to prevent further violent protests],” he said. “I can’t go into detail, because I don’t want to publicize the measures we’ve taken so far.”