Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for November, 2018

Newsline: Canada Mulls Its Cuba Embassy Presence After 13th Mystery Illness Case

Canada is mulling its embassy presence in Cuba after another confirmed case of an unexplained illness. Canadian officials are investigating the potential cause of “unusual health symptoms” reported by some Canadian Embassy workers in Havana and their family members. A new case brings the total number of affected people to 13. The recent development also prompted the Canadian government to give staff stationed in Havana the option to return to Canada. Global Affairs Canada says there’s no known risk for Canadian residents traveling to Cuba. A group of Canadian government officials will visit the island next week to review the issue and potentially take further steps to protect diplomats there.



Newsline: Turkey Trolls U.S. by Renaming Embassy Street After Malcolm X

Turkey has renamed the street on which the new U.S. Embassy will be located to honor American black Muslim civil rights activist Malcolm X. The renaming could be read as making a political point against the U.S., especially as the Turkish government has a history of using charged names for streets hosting other nations’ embassies, Agence France Presse explained. The street—formerly called 1478 Street—was adorned with its new sign early Thursday. The road sits in the Cukurambar district in Ankara, where the U.S. embassy is still under construction. The complex is expected to be finished by 2020, according to construction contractors BL Harbert. The Ankara city council decided last month to rename the street after Malcolm X, who was shot dead in February 1965. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the activist’s daughters that the name of Malcolm X would “live on” in the Turkish capital. Born in 1925, Malcolm X went on to become one of the most influential and well-known black activists in American history, as well as one of the most notable Muslim campaigners. A vocal supporter of black self-determination, black self-defense and pan-Africanism, his critics considered him a dangerous racist bent on the destruction of white America. Turkey is also considering renaming the street home to the Saudi Arabian consulate after Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist murdered by a Saudi hit squad inside the building in October.


Newsline: Former French ambassador elected as president of Georgia

Salome Zurabishvili, a former French diplomat born to Georgian immigrants in Paris, won with the backing of Georgia’s ruling party in a second-round presidential vote on Wednesday. Zurabishvili, 66, was running as an independent candidate for the largely ceremonial position, but has the backing of the ruling Georgian Dream party. The election is seen as a test for the increasingly unpopular party, which is run by billionaire oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili. Zurabishvili was born in Paris to a family that fled Georgia for political reasons in 1921. She studied at the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies and at Columbia University in New York before leading a successful career at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which culminated in an appointment as ambassador to Georgia in 2003. In 2004, then-president Saakashvili granted her Georgian citizenship with the endorsement of French President Jacques Chirac, and she became Georgia’s foreign minister. A previous bid to seek the presidency in 2013 was disqualified, due to her holding dual French and Georgian citizenship. She announced in August that France had terminated her French citizenship at her request, so she could submit her candidacy for the 2018 poll. “The decision was not simple, but it was necessary,” Zurabishvili said at that time. “The President of Georgia cannot simultaneously be a citizen of another country.”


Newsline: Malaysia and Indonesia sink Australia’s Embassy move to Jerusalem

Forget about Australia moving its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Veiled Malaysian suggestions of terrorist attacks on Australian targets if the Embassy is moved coupled with Indonesian threats to not sign a free trade agreement with Australia – will suffice to burst Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s thought-bubble. Australia gave Indonesia $360 million in aid in 2016 and was the world’s 16th largest donor in giving $15 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Indonesia gave UNRWA $5000 in 2016 – whilst Malaysia gave nothing. Indonesia and Malaysia – two Islamic states – flex their muscles on Islamic claims to Jerusalem – yet pathetically fail to financially support their Islamic brethren.


Newsline: US ambassador angers Poles with letter to prime minister

The U.S. ambassador to Poland triggered anger in Poland with a letter to the prime minister that takes his government to task over its treatment of a U.S.-owned independent television station. The letter from Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher circulated in Polish media. It misspells the last name of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and addresses him with the wrong title, as well as misspelling the name of the interior minister. Overall, ties between the U.S. and Poland are good and Poland is lobbying for a permanent U.S. military base that it has promised to name “Fort Trump.” Poland’s conservative, nationalist government also has a lot of ideological similarities with U.S. President Donald Trump. It was not clear who leaked the letter and government officials seemed eager to play it down. Mosbacher, a Trump appointee, said she wrote to express “deep concern” over government treatment of TVN, a Polish broadcaster owned by the U.S. company Discovery. The station is seen in Poland as representing a liberal viewpoint critical of the conservative government.


Newsline: Julian Assange No Longer Has Embassy Cat For Company

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over 6 years, two of which he spent with a gorgeous ‘whisker-blower’. But he gave away his beloved cat so that it would no longer be trapped with him in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported. Assange’s legal team member Hanna Jonasson tweeted that the Ecuadorian government threatened to put the cat in a pound, therefore the WikiLeaks founder asked his lawyers to take the kitty to a safer place – to his family. ‘With its funny striped tie and ambushes on the ornaments of the Christmas tree at the embassy’s entrance, the cat had helped defuse tensions inside the building for years. But Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life’, La Repubblica wrote. Last month, media speculated that Ecuador had introduced a new set of restrictions on Assange, warning him against online comments on political issues and ordering to clean his bathroom and take care of his cat, or risk losing it.


Newsline: U.S. extends Congo embassy closure amid militant threat

The United States will extend the closure of its embassy in Democratic Republic of Congo into Tuesday because of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. government facilities in the capital Kinshasa. The United States first warned its nationals of the threat on Saturday and closed the embassy on Monday. In a second statement on Monday, it said the embassy would remain closed for another day. It advised citizens in Kinshasa to keep a low profile. The embassy declined to comment on the exact nature of the threat. Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said the United States had shared no information.