Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for June, 2013

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Cairo identifies citizen killed in Alexandria

A U.S. citizen killed on Friday in Alexandria, Egypt, site of anti-government protests, was identified as Andrew Pochter, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo told NBC News on Saturday. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, said the 21-year-old student was from Chevy Chase, Md. In a statement, the school said Pochter was an intern at AMIDEAST, a nonprofit group not affiliated with Kenyon that is engaged in international education, training and development. “We are providing appropriate consular assistance from our Embassy in Cairo and our Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department,” a State Department said. Al Jazeera and Reuters, both quoting doctors and Egyptian security officials, and the Egyptian state news agency MENA reported Friday that Pochter died from a stab wound to the chest in Alexandria.


Newsline: Ecuador says Snowden travel doc issued from London embassy “has no validity”

As far as anyone knows, Edward Snowden remains in bureaucratic limbo inside the international transit zone in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Despite scouring the area for days, reporters have yet to lay eyes on the famed NSA leaker. In a new wrinkle in the international man of mystery’s ongoing saga, Ecuador seems a bit confused about what, precisely, his asylum status is as well as what documents he has already been issued. On June 23, 2013, Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister of Ecuador unequivocally wrote on Twitter: “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. #Snowden.” However, Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, indicated in a press conference on Thursday, June 27 that this application cannot proceed unless Snowden presents himself in an Ecuadorean embassy or in Ecuador itself. Should Russia grant Snowden a temporary visa, it’s conceivable that he could apply for asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy in Moscow. On Friday, the Ecuadorean foreign press agency, EFE, reported that diplomats from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador are set to meet on Monday to discuss the Snowden situation. Were Snowden to leave Moscow for Quito via normal commercial air routes, he would almost certainly have to stop over in Cuba and/or Venezuela. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said that it is “almost certain” that his nation would grant asylum to Snowden if requested. Maduro is scheduled to be in Moscow anyway on Monday to participate in the international Forum of Gas-Exporting Countries. To make the Snowden diplomatic situation even more complicated, US-based Spanish language television network Univision has published a June 22 document issued by the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. But Ecuador said Snowden travel doc issued from London embassy “has no validity.” The embassy has also been sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for over a year now.


Newsline: Hand grenade attack on Pakistani Embassy in Libya

The Pakistani embassy in Tripoli was targeted by what was thought to be hand grenade, which exploded outside the main entrance. “Around 1 am somebody hurled a hand grenade towards the main gate,” the Pakistani Ambassador, Mohammed Ayaz Hussain, told the Libya Herald. The device, he said, hit and damaged the gates but did not fall inside the compound. “There has been no damage other than that and no human or material losses,” Hussain said. “This is the first time such a blast has happened here,” a spokesperson for the embassy told the Libya Herald. The Pakistani embassy is in the Sharqia district of Tripoli, where a number of other embassies is also located. The attack is being investigated and CCTV footage inspected.


Newsline: US allowing some embassy staff to leave Egypt

The United States updated its travel warning to Egypt and said non-emergency diplomatic staff could leave the country, after an American was among two people killed in protests. “The Department of State authorized the departure of a limited number of non-emergency employees and family members,” it said in the updated warning. It cautioned US citizens “to defer non-essential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest.” “US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security.” The warning came after an American was among two people killed in Egypt’s second city of Alexandria as clashes erupted Friday during rival demonstrations for and against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi a year after his election. The US citizen, a 21-year-old who reportedly worked for an American cultural center in the northern port city, was killed as he took photographs of a demonstration, officials said. “We have heard of reports of the death of a US citizen. We are seeking to confirm,” an official at the US embassy in Cairo told AFP. The travel warning made no mention of Friday’s reported death, but highlighted that a private US citizen was stabbed outside the embassy in Cairo on May 9 after being asked if he was American. The State Department warned that “political unrest … is likely to continue in the near future due to unrest focused on the first anniversary of the president’s assumption of office.” “Demonstrations have, on occasion, degenerated into violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries and extensive property damage,” it added.


Newsline: Russia denies closure of embassy, naval base in Syria

Russia’s embassy in Damascus, as well as its naval base in the port of Tartus, are continuing to perform regular operations, though “in very stressful and unsafe conditions,” Russia’s foreign minister said. He dispelled rumors that that the facilities were to be shuttered due to the ongoing Syrian civil war, denouncing such reports as “speculation and provocation.” Regarding the naval base, which is for Russia is a last-remaining military foothold beyond the former Soviet Union, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “there are no plans to evacuate this facility, as well as its staff.”


Newsline: British embassy flies the flag for gay pride in France

Britain’s embassy building in Paris will be adorned by a rainbow flag this weekend in an official show of support for gay pride marches scheduled to take place in the French capital and London. The celebration of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) pride in Paris will be the first since France legalised gay marriage. Britain is in the process of enacting similar legislation. Peter Ricketts, the British Ambassador in Paris, explained the move. “I am delighted to fly the rainbow flag over the Embassy to mark this week and to show our pride in our LGBT staff and our celebration of diversity in our staff and our society,” Ricketts said. “The British government supports LGBT rights around the world and believes no one should face prejudice and discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


Newsline: Ex-US envoy to Kenya troubled by embassy security

As President Barack Obama prepares to visit East Africa nearly 15 years after terrorists bombed two U.S. embassies here, a former United States ambassador to Kenya says he worries that security at the Nairobi embassy has been “complacent” and may not have had adequate priority in the recent past. Obama is scheduled on Monday to visit Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania, which along with Nairobi was the site of near-simultaneous embassy attacks in August 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, mostly Kenyans, but also a dozen Americans. Obama is likely to visit the memorial for the victims of the Tanzania attack. Scott Gration, the immediate past U.S. ambassador in Nairobi and a retired U.S. Air Force major general, told The Associated Press this week that during one period of his yearlong tenure as ambassador the American security staff saw its personnel numbers cut in half because of things like personnel changeovers, known as gaps. The period of the 50 percent reduction occurred about four months prior to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, he said, in which four Americans were killed, including the ambassador, on Sept. 11, 2012. The Nairobi Embassy is ranked as a “critical” threat posting for terrorism and crime by the State Department.