Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for August, 2018

Newsline: China’s ambassador says US officials ‘don’t have sufficient common sense’

As a tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s top two economies prepares for a new round of tariffs, China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, said that Beijing would not give in to intimidation and coercion from Washington. His sometimes blunt remarks came as trade tensions look set to escalate further following reports that US President Donald Trump intends to move ahead with the imposition of tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports as soon as next week. In a speech on Thursday at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, Cui admitted that US-China relations were facing “a big problem” and said there was good reason to be worried about their increasing geopolitical competition and rivalry.



Newsline: Finland will reopen embassy in Iraq after nearly 3 decades

Finland will reopen its embassy in Baghdad for the first time since 1991 due an increasing Iraqi diaspora in the European country and to increase bilateral cooperation. “Iraq belongs to the European neighbourhood, and its development will affect Finland, too. Finland has a fairly large Iraqi diaspora community, which means that cooperation between the citizens of the countries and other collaboration are increasing,” stated Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini. Following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Finland has not had diplomatic personnel in Baghdad. They have used a roving ambassador based in Helsinki. The return of asylum seekers also was taken into consideration. In 2017, a total of 5,059 people applied for asylum in Finland — a slight drop from 5,657. The country has a population of about 5.5 million. Currently, 14 European Union member states have ambassadors in Baghdad.


Newsline: US sending American personnel to guard its de facto embassy in Taiwan

The United States has said it will send American security personnel to its de facto embassy in Taiwan when its new premises become operational in September. A State Department spokesman made the comment in response to questions on whether the US will send marines to provide security at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) when the new premises become operational. “As is the practice at AIT’s current location, a small number of American personnel detailed to AIT along with a larger number of locally hired employees will provide security for the new office building in cooperation with local authorities,” the spokesman said. Earlier media reports, including CNN, said in June the State Department had requested that US marines be sent to the AIT. If such a request were granted for the new facility, it would be the first time in nearly 40 years that US marines had guarded a diplomatic mission in Taiwan. But the Marine Corps Times reported in July that the request had not been granted.


Newsline: Swiss ambassador to Germany laughs off prop fiasco

The new Swiss ambassador to Germany had a rather inauspicious start to the job on Wednesday but was able to see the humour in the situation. Paul Seger was wrapping up his recorded welcome message when things went south. Just after Bern’s new man in Germany expressed his desire that the Swiss embassy in Berlin would be a “house of friendship” and a “meeting place”, the wind picked up, knocking over the German and Swiss flags beside him. There was not a hint of icy Swiss diplomacy as the new ambassador burst out laughing. The embassy didn’t try and hide the incident either, posting the resulting footage on Twitter. Seger replaces Christine Schraner Burgener as the Swiss ambassador to Germany. Schraner Burgener was named the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar in May while Seger was formerly head of mission in Yangon.


Newsline: U.S. Embassy in South Africa Rejects Trump Tweet

President Donald Trump incensed South Africa by wading into a politically fraught debate on land reform issues and violence against white farmers, a rallying cry for white nationalists in the United States and elsewhere. Now, the U.S. Embassy in South Africa has tacitly rebuked the president in a cable sent clarifying the issue and correcting misperceptions put forward by the president on Twitter, following a misleading statement on Fox News. The cable, sent Wednesday morning and obtained by Foreign Policy, does not mention the president or his tweet at all. Titled “Despite Crime Epidemic, Farm Murders Down,” the cable outlines statistics on murder rates on white-owned South African farms. “Some journalists and lobby groups have simplified complex land disputes to serve their own ends,” the cable says. Political officers from the U.S. Embassy reached out to a broad array of experts—including farmers, police, crime researchers, and academics—to gauge the extent of violence against white farmers. They found “no evidence that murders on farms specifically target white people or are politically motivated,” the cable states. “Farmers suggested that they are more vulnerable to violence because of the remoteness of the farms and inadequate responses of law enforcement agencies, but they also noted that farm violence has never resulted in any kind of land seizure,” according to the cable. The U.S. president set off an international diplomatic incident last week by tweeting an inaccurate Fox News claim that the South African government is seizing land from white farmers. He said he had asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “to closely study the South African land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” The South African government responded sharply to the claims, which it maintained are based on “false information,” adding that “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past.”

In Tacit Rebuke, U.S. Embassy in South Africa Rejects Trump Tweet

Newsline: South Korean ambassador says embassy to resume work in Tripoli in September

The South Korean embassy in Tripoli will reopen in September and the country’s firms will resume suspended projects in Libya afterwards, the South Korean ambassador, Choi Sung-Soo, told the deputy head of the Presidential Council Ahmed Mitig. The two officials also talked about mutual relations and discussed the fate of the South Korean national who is abducted in southern Libya along with two Filipinos. Ambassador Sung-Soo thanked Mitig for the efforts exerted by Libya to secure the release of the abducted national who has been abducted since last July as he was working at Hasawna Man-Made River system. Meanwhile, Mitig hailed the reopening of the South Korean embassy, reassuring the ambassador that they are following the kidnap case closely along with the security apparatuses.


Newsline: Romania’s Ambassador To U.S. In Trouble

Romania’s ambassador to the United States is in trouble with his superiors after he criticized a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer about Romania’s leaders. George Maior was recalled to Bucharest by the Foreign Ministry to discuss remarks he made about a letter penned from Rudy Giuliani and published by Romanian media on August 27. In the letter addressed to President Klaus Iohannis and Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, Giuliani wrote he was concerned about “continued damage to the rule of law in Romania, committed under the pretext of law enforcement.” He also criticized what he called the “excesses” of Romania’s anticorruption agency and the country’s Intelligence Service. Maior, who has been ambassador to Washington since 2015 and is a former head of the Intelligence Service, responded by saying Giuliani’s letter resulted from “a lobby initiated by people interested in defending figures who have problems with the justice system.” “Ambassador George Maior had a stance that was not approved at the central level in the Foreign Ministry or the government and it does not represent the Romanian Foreign Ministry’s stance,” a ministry statement said. “His role is to promote the national interest … and he is required to abstain from public statements that can negatively affect bilateral relations with other states.” It wasn’t immediately clear why exactly Giuliani was wading into Romanian politics. Though he is currently Trump’s personal lawyer, he has no official position in the Trump administration.