Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May, 2019

Newsline: Greece, North Macedonia open embassies after name deal

Greece has upgraded its diplomatic mission to North Macedonia’s capital of Skopje to an embassy, following a deal to normalize relations with its neighbor — which renamed itself from Macedonia. A foreign ministry statement says Greece is also upgrading its representation in North Macedonia’s southern town of Bitola to a general consulate. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/greece-north-macedonia-open-embassies-after-name-deal) May 31 statement added that North Macedonia has upgraded its mission in Athens to an embassy and in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki to a general consulate. The two countries this year ended a decades-long dispute over Greece’s neighbor’s name. Athens long claimed that plain “Macedonia” implied claims on its own northern region of the same name and on ancient Greek heritage.

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Newsline: South Korea fires diplomat for leaking classified material

South Korea decided to expel a diplomat accused of leaking a phone conversation between the country’s president and his U.S. counterpart, local media reported. (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/skorea-fires-diplomat-for-leaking-trump-moon-talk/1492979) On May30, the disciplinary panel of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry decided to fire the diplomat who was posted at its Washington embassy, according to Yonhap News Agency. The diplomat, name withheld, had shared details of the May 7 phone call between Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in with Rep. Khang Hyo-shang, an opposition South Korean lawmaker of Liberty Korea Party (LKP). The details made public include Moon’s request for Trump to visit Seoul after his Japan visit which concluded Monday and whether Trump had really approved South Korea’s push for food aid to North Korea. Kim In-chul, a spokesman for South Korean Foreign Ministry, told Yonhap that another official who shared a copy of the conversation with the diplomat would receive a penalty of three-month wage reduction. “The diplomat acknowledged the wrongdoing but denied he had any intent to harm the government’s policy,” the report said. Criminal complaints were filed against the diplomat and Khang over the leaking of a classified material. Khang had in a press conference revealed details of the conversation earlier this month, accusing Moon of “begging” for Trump to visit South Korea.

Newsline: US Officials Walk Out of UN Forum in Protest as Maduro’s Ambassador Takes Chair

U.S. officials walked out of a United Nations arms forum on May 28 in a protest against Venezuela assuming the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), which is decided on a rotating basis. (https://www.theepochtimes.com/us-officials-walk-out-of-un-forum-in-protest-as-maduros-ambassador-takes-chair_2940734.html) The Trump administration, in the meantime, has continued to step up sanctions against Nicolás Maduro. The United States hasn’t ruled out military action to remove what it and dozens of other nations believe was a rigged 2018 election. As Venezuela took up the one-month presidency of the Geneva talks, U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert Wood left the session and announced a “boycott” while Maduro Ambassador Jorge Valero chairs the forum. In 2018, the United States similarly protested when Syria took the chair.

Newsline: US diplomat to succeed ousted UN envoy for Somalia

A former US special representative to Somalia who also served as Washington’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo has been tapped to be the next United Nations envoy to Somalia, replacing an emissary who was expelled four months ago. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council in a letter released on May 30 that he plans to appoint James Swan as his envoy for Somalia. (https://www.france24.com/en/20190530-us-diplomat-succeed-ousted-un-envoy-somalia) Swan, who was also a US deputy assistant secretary of state for Africa and ambassador to Djibouti, will replace Nicholas Haysom, who was declared persona non grata by Somalia’s government in January after he raised human rights concerns. Swan’s appointment is expected to be supported by the council, diplomats said. Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was told to leave Somalia after he questioned the government’s decision to arrest an Al-Shabaab defector who was running in elections. He served in the post for three months.

Newsline: Chinese special envoy to North Korea becomes ambassador to Japan

China has appointed its special envoy to North Korea, vice foreign minister Kong Xuanyou, as its ambassador to Japan, state media said on May 28. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3012163/chinese-special-envoy-north-korea-kong-xuanyou-becomes) Kong, who has held the South Asia portfolio at the ministry, has been envoy to North Korea since 2017, although much of the diplomacy between Beijing and Pyongyang was handled by the Communist Party. Chinese media said Kong would take up his new position in Japan as successor to Cheng Yonghua. Kong’s replacement as special envoy to North Korea was not named. China and Japan have sparred frequently about their shared history. China has often accused Japan of not properly atoning for its invasion of China before and during the second world war.

Newsline: Russia summons Spanish ambassador over ‘old enemy’ comment

Russia summoned Spain’s ambassador to Moscow on Tuesday after acting Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell referred to the country as an “old enemy”, the Russian foreign ministry said on May 28. Borrell told Spanish newspaper El Periodico last week: “Russia, our old enemy, is once again saying, ‘here I am,’ and has returned as a threat, and China is also presenting itself as a rival.” The ministry said Borrell’s comment “damages the relations between Spain and Russia, the mutual perception of bilateral relations as friendly, based on a partnership and mutually-beneficial.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-spain-diplomacy/russia-summons-spanish-ambassador-over-old-enemy-comment-idUSKCN1SY1W6) The Spanish Foreign Ministry confirmed Russia’s decision to summon the envoy and criticized it. “Russia’s reaction has surprised negatively. We believe they have overreacted, interpreting in a bilateral way some reflections over global geopolitics made from a European perspective,” a Spanish Foreign Ministry official said.

Newsline: Venezuela called to appear in Canberra court over missed embassy rent payments

The Republic of Venezuela has been taken to court by a Canberra family who alleges the country owes them thousands in unpaid rent money. The Rosa family claimed the South American nation had missed more than $50,000 in rent payments for two properties in O’Malley it had previously used as an embassy. (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-28/venezuela-called-to-appear-in-canberra-court-over-missed-rent/11151010) In documents seeking a hearing in the ACT Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the family claimed that from 2017 the republic began to fall behind in payments, and eventually vacated under contentious circumstances. In October of that year, the embassy made headlines when its landlord blockaded the entrance using a construction vehicle. Things boiled over when top Venezuelan skier Cesar Augusto Baena Sierraalta struck the landlord, claiming the man had showed disrespect for his country. Mr Sierraalta pleaded guilty and was released on a good behaviour order, with no conviction recorded.