Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for August 22, 2017

Newsline: US Embassy in Russia stops issuing tourist visas for 8 days

In a step that could affect hundreds of thousands of Russian tourists, the U.S. Embassy in Russia said it would suspend issuing nonimmigrant visas for eight days from Wednesday in response to the Russian decision to cap embassy staff. The embassy made the decision after the Russian Foreign Ministry ordered a cap on the number of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Russia, it said in a statement, adding that it would resume issuing visas in Moscow on Sept. 1, but maintain the suspension at consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok indefinitely. Nearly a quarter of a million Russian tourists visited the U.S. last year, according to Russian tourism officials. Earlier this month, Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff in Russia by 755, or two-thirds. Moscow’s move was a long-expected response to former U.S. President Barack Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats and shut down two Russian recreational retreats in the United States following allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. vote. The vast majority of the more than 1,000 employees at the various U.S. diplomatic missions in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and the three consulates, are believed to be Russian nationals. The U.S. embassy said Monday that Russia’s decision to cut its staff “calls into question Russia’s seriousness about pursuing better relations.” However, it insisted that it would be able to maintain adequate staffing “to carry out essential elements of our mission.”The U.S. State Department said the decision to suspend visas was not retaliation for Russia’s capping of U.S. diplomatic personnel, noting that having fewer personnel inevitably results in a reduction in the services they can provide.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/us-embassy-in-russia-suspends-issuing-nonimmigrant-visas/2017/08/21/e2ebbbb2-8653-11e7-96a7-d178cf3524eb_story.html?utm_term=.7b6317bdd7df

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Newsline: Serbia withdraws embassy staff from Macedonia

The Serbian government has pulled its entire embassy staff from Macedonia amid claims over “offensive intelligence activities” against Belgrade, in a move that is likely to strain relations between the two Balkan neighbours. Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters that the withdrawal from the Macedonian capital, Skopje, was made after intelligence reports of “very offensive acts” planned against Serbian interests in Macedonia. He did not elaborate on the specific acts, adding that “everything will be much clearer” in the next 10 days. The recall was first announced by Macedonia’s ministry of foreign affairs, which said it was “not aware of the reasons for the decision”.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/serbia-withdraws-embassy-staff-macedonia-170821201331827.html