Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for June, 2018

Newsline: US ambassador to Estonia resigns ‘over Trump comments’

The US ambassador to Estonia is resigning, reportedly in frustration at remarks made by President Donald Trump about America’s European allies. James D Melville revealed in a Facebook post that Mr Trump’s comments had brought forward his decision to retire, Foreign Policy magazine reported. The US president has imposed trade tariffs on some EU industries and strongly criticised Nato allies. In the private Facebook post seen by Foreign Policy, Mr Melville reportedly told friends: “For the president to say the EU was ‘set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank’, or that ‘Nato is as bad as Nafta [the North American Free Trade Agreement]’ is not only factually wrong, but proves to me that it’s time to go.” Mr Melville is a career diplomat and took up his position as ambassador in Estonia in 2015 after being nominated by then President Barack Obama. He had previously held senior diplomatic posts in several European countries and speaks Russian, German and French, according to his biography on the US State Department website. A State Department spokesperson confirmed Mr Melville’s departure on Friday, saying: “Earlier today, the United States’ Ambassador to Estonia, Jim Melville, announced his intent to retire from the Foreign Service effective July 29 after 33 years of public service.”



Newsline: Israel’s embassy in Ireland stalled Dublin office works over security concerns

Israel’s embassy in Ireland has stated that a planned redevelopment of Carrisbrook House in Dublin 4 “could be a significant threat to the security and privacy” of its operation. Israel’s Dublin-based embassy, which is currently housed on the fifth floor of Carrisbrook House, has put a block on the plans for the building after it lodged an appeal against a decision by Dublin council which gave Spectre (Carrisbrook) Ltd the green light to revamp the office block. Previously, the IDA’s €1 million a year expenditure on lease payments on the largely-empty Carrisbrook House came under the political spotlight.


Newsline: U.S. says another American suffers illness at its Cuba embassy

The U.S. State Department said another person had been affected by health problems at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, bringing to 26 the number of Americans who have suffered mysterious maladies in that country. The latest case and another confirmed on June 21 were found to involve health effects similar to those reported by other members of the U.S. Havana diplomatic community and were the first since August 2017, the department said in a statement. U.S. experts have yet to determine who or what was behind the mysterious illnesses, which began in late 2016. Cuban officials, who are conducting their own investigation, have denied any involvement or any knowledge of what was behind it. The State Department statement said the two cases confirmed this month “result from a single occurrence in late May in a diplomatic residence in which both officers were present.” They raised the number of Americans affected to 26, it said.


Newsline: Trump finally has an ambassador to South Korea

President Donald Trump finally has an ambassador to South Korea, as the Senate confirmed retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris by a voice vote Thursday, filling a key diplomatic post that had remained vacant since the current administration took office. Harris, the former commander of US Pacific Command, had been tapped as ambassador to Australia until Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested to the President that Harris be nominated to fill the open post in Seoul ahead of the June 12 summit between Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, sources told CNN at the time. Now Harris faces the challenge of helping Pompeo facilitate the next step in talks with Pyongyang — which, despite Trump’s claim to the contrary, remains a nuclear threat, according to the secretary of state’s testimony on Capitol Hill this week. During his confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month, Harris also said North Korea continues to be a nuclear threat and advocated that major military exercises be paused to give Kim a chance to prove whether he is “serious,” a recommendation Trump ultimately took to heart.


Newsline: France appoints Iran ambassador as Syria envoy

The current French ambassador to Iran Francois Senemaud has been named as President Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for Syria. The appointment was announced at the weekly cabinet meeting. Senemaud, 61, is expected to leave Tehran in August, Benjamin Griveaux, the government spokesman, told a weekly news briefing and added that France is “not reopening” its embassy. In 2012, France closed its embassy in Syria without formally breaking off diplomatic relations. Franck Gellet, 54, who has just been appointed as French ambassador to Qatar, was working as French envoy to Syria since 2014.


Newsline: Algerian embassy to return to Tripoli

Algeria has expressed its willingness to reopen its embassy in Libya after the completion of security arrangements around the embassy in Tripoli. The New Arab news website quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the Algerian government had previously sent a technical team specialized in the security of diplomatic installations to inspect the embassy building. The sources said that the diplomatic mission will initially be limited to a small team working to secure Algerian interests and political coordination, in addition to agreeing to send a joint cooperation committee to hold this year’s meeting to assess the situation.


Newsline: UK Foreign Office offers Assange a doctor if he leaves Ecuador embassy

A UK Foreign Office minister has offered cupboard-dwelling WikiLeaker Julian Assange access to medical attention if he leaves Ecuador’s London embassy. Sir Alan Duncan told Parliament this afternoon that the British government is “increasingly concerned” about Assange’s health. “It is our wish that this can be brought to an end and we’d like to make the assurance that if [Assange] were to step out of the embassy, he would be treated humanely and properly and that the first priority would be to look after his health, which we think is deteriorating,” Sir Alan told the House of Commons. “Of course, he’s in the embassy of his own choice,” the minister added.