Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for October, 2019

Newsline: Jordan recalls ambassador to Israel to protest detentions

Jordan announced it was recalling its ambassador to Israel for consultations to protest Israel’s detention of a pair of Jordanians who have been held without charges for the past two months. Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi wrote on Twitter that Jordan was taking the step because of Israel’s refusal “to heed our legitimate demands” to release the pair. “We hold Israeli government responsible for the lives of our citizens whose health conditions have severely deteriorated in illegal arbitrary detention,” he said. “We will take all necessary legal & diplomatic measures to ensure their safe return home.” (https://news.yahoo.com/jordan-recalls-ambassador-israel-protest-210647512.html) The case has further soured what already is a tense relationship between the two countries, which marked the 25-year anniversary of their landmark peace agreement over the weekend. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it was checking the Jordanian announcement with authorities in Amman.

Newsline: Bulgaria gave Russian diplomat 24 hours to leave

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry gave a Russian diplomat allegedly involved in espionage 24 hours to leave the country after it found that its request to Moscow to recall him had not been carried out. The ministry was forced to hand a written note to the Russian ambassador early after the Russian embassy informed it that the diplomat was still in Bulgaria, it said in a statement. In a rare move, Bulgaria expelled the diplomat after prosecutors said he had held conspiratorial meetings with Bulgarians, including with a senior official with a clearance for classified information from the European Union and NATO since last September. “The Russian embassy has received a note from the Bulgarian foreign ministry declaring an embassy’s employee a persona non grata. The diplomat will leave the country in the note’s outlined timeline,” the embassy said in a posting on Twitter, adding that the Russian side is reserving its right to take corresponding measures. (https://news.yahoo.com/bulgaria-gives-russian-diplomat-24-160126668.html) Bulgaria, a loyal ally of Moscow in Soviet times, is now a member of NATO and the European Union but has close cultural and historic ties to Russia, which remains its biggest energy supplier. Sofia did not join its NATO and EU allies in expelling Russian diplomats over the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England last year.

Newsline: Israeli Embassies and Consulates Close as Diplomats Strike for Higher Wages

Israeli embassies and consulates have shut down because of a strike by diplomats and military attaches over expense stipends, according to The Times of Israel. The closures happened after Israel’s Ministry of Finance said it would make envoys pay back money they had already been reimbursed for expenses. “Due to the decision of the Israeli Ministry of Finance to breach understandings that were agreed upon and signed by the Director General of the Ministry of Finance on July 21, 2019, and to apply a one-sided procedure that alters a protocol that has been in place for several decades, we are forced to close the diplomate mission,” read a statement. “No consular services will be provided and no one will be allowed to enter the Embassy/Consulate.” (https://www.newsweek.com/israeli-embassies-consulates-close-diplomats-strike-higher-wages-1468594) Union representatives came to an agreement with the Finance Ministry in 2014 to increase Israeli diplomats’ pay, but reports indicate the plan was never completely implemented. Currently, Israel has 69 embassies, 23 consulates and five special missions around the world, including a representative at the United Nations. But the Israeli government has cut the Foreign Ministry’s budget, leaving it at only approximately $367 million per year.

Newsline: Slovenia Opens Embassy in Abu Dhabi

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash on day two of his working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), discussing with him further cooperation and the situations in the Middle East and Western Balkans, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. In the afternoon, Cerar officially inaugurated in Abu Dhabi Slovenia’s first embassy in a Gulf country, which has been operating since 2018. Cerar said in his address that the embassy was an “important step forward in deepening Slovenian relations with the UAE and the region” (https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/politics/4865-slovenia-opens-embassy-in-abu-dhabi-first-in-gulf). A similar a sentiment was expressed by Gargash in their meeting earlier in the day.

Newsline: Israeli embassies on alert citing Iran threat

Several Israeli embassies around the world have raised their alert level in light of increased tensions from Iran. (https://www.jpost.com/International/Israeli-embassies-on-alert-air-defenses-adjusted-in-face-of-Iran-threat-606159) According to reports in Hebrew-language media, a series of adjustments were made to IAF air defense systems in light of the fear that Iran might try to carry out an attack using cruise missiles or suicide drones similar to the October attack against Saudi Arabia. IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have warned in recent days of the increased threat posed by the Islamic Republic, which they say is getting bolder and more willing to respond to Israeli attacks on Iranian and Iranian-backed militias and infrastructure.

Newsline: German embassy worker allegedly sold visas to Lebanese clan

German authorities are looking for a former embassy worker who allegedly sold visa documents to members of a Lebanese clan. The clan then used the documents to smuggle Syrian refugees into Germany, according to a report. A Lebanese man who used to work at the German embassy in Beirut is wanted by authorities over alleged “irregularities” involving visa documents, according to a report by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “We are working closely with the relevant criminal investigative authorities in this case,” the German Foreign Office told the paper, adding that the suspect no longer works at the embassy. (https://www.dw.com/en/german-embassy-worker-allegedly-sold-visas-to-lebanese-clan-report/a-51011980) The man reportedly worked in the embassy’s visa department until 2017 and is believed to have taken so-called “visa stickers” — papers that are inserted into passports and are necessary to travel to Germany.

Newsline: The Taliban’s Diplomatic Reemergence

In a fresh move to reinvigorate the “dead” peace talks, China announced it would host Taliban and Afghan delegates in a two-day meeting slated to begin on October 28 in Beijing. Although there was no official announcement from China, both Taliban and Afghan delegates confirmed they received invitation from Beijing. This will be the first such meeting since the abrupt ending of talks between U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Doha-based Taliban leadership last month. Separately, diplomats from the United States, Russia, China and Pakistan were scheduled to meet in Moscow on October 25 to discuss the Afghan peace process. (https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/the-talibans-diplomatic-reemergence/) Disregarding the Taliban’s past and present violence, support for terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda or its dreadful human rights record, the group’s once reclusive militant leadership is gradually and rapidly strengthening and expanding their diplomatic outreach. Long before the launch of the Qatar peace talks in October 2018, the Taliban leadership received positive signals from regional countries as well as some European capitals. Such signals helped the group put forward a diplomatic front with a soft image alongside continuing its fighting across Afghanistan.

Newsline: State Department Nixed Plan To Support Former Ukrainian Ambassador

Philip Reeker, a U.S. diplomat who oversees European affairs, told House members he had plans of defending former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in the face of a smear campaign against her, but Reeker was overruled by top State Department officials, according to a person familiar with Reeker’s testimony. In a rare Saturday hearing, Reeker sat for more than eight hours of questions from lawmakers running the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Reeker appeared under a subpoena issued by House lawmakers, despite being ordered not to cooperate by Trump. (https://www.npr.org/2019/10/26/773761689/u-s-diplomat-state-department-nixed-plan-to-support-former-ukrainian-ambassador) Reeker, a career foreign servicer officer, was named the acting assistant secretary of state in the Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs in March, a few months before Yovanovitch became a political target and was removed from her post. Just before her ouster, however, Reeker wanted to draft a strongly-worded statement from State Department officials to strike back at the attacks she was enduring in conservative media and by allies of Trump. But that letter was scotched by David Hale, the No. 3 official in the State Department, according to the person familar with Reeker’s testimony.

Newsline: Standoff ends at Mexican Consulate in downtown San Antonio

After more than four hours, a standoff has ended between a man who jumped over the fence at the Mexican Consulate in downtown San Antonio and police. The man was complaining he was wrongly accused of charges in California and that his child was taken from him. (https://foxsanantonio.com/news/local/standoff-ends-at-mexican-consulate-in-downtown-san-antonio) Negotiators were called in to the scene to try and talk him down from the rooftop. The street in front of the office was shut down. Police were ready to take any necessary means to get them man down peacefully.

Newsline: Vietnam’s embassy says no confirmation of identity of 39 UK truck victims

Vietnam’s embassy in London said on Saturday it did not have official confirmation of the identity of the 39 people who died in the back of a truck to the east of London this week. In a statement, the embassy said its ambassador had spoken to Britain’s interior minister and was staying in close contact with the police as they work to identify the bodies. (https://news.yahoo.com/no-confirmation-identity-39-uk-165006562.html) “According to the Essex Police, the identification and nationality of the victims are still under investigation,” it said. “The Embassy of Vietnam and relevant UK agencies affirmed the willingness to exchange information and to coordinate in order to facilitate the identification of the victims.”