Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Spain expels North Korean ambassador over nuclear stance

Spain ordered North Korea’s ambassador to leave the country by September 30 in protest over Pyongyang’s nuclear tests, which it has criticised as “a serious threat to peace”. “The ambassador of North Korea DPRK in Spain has been declared persona non grata,” the foreign ministry said on its English twitter account. The ministry added on its Spanish account that the ambassador has until the end of the month to leave the country. In late August, Spain had warned that Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes “create a serious threat to peace in the region and to global security,” saying they “would have consequences on bilateral relations”. The ambassador was also summoned to Madrid at the time and told to reduce the number of diplomatic staff, which include an ambassador and two diplomats, according to a foreign ministry spokeswoman. The North Korean embassy opened in 2014.

http://www.france24.com/en/20170918-spain-expel-north-korean-ambassador-nuclear-ambitions-crisis

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Newsline: Jordan king said to urge Israel to wrap up embassy shooting probe

King Abdullah II of Jordan met with representatives of American Jewish organizations in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, reportedly chiding Israel over the pace of an investigation into a deadly shooting at the embassy in Amman in July. Abdullah, who was accompanied by his wife Queen Raina, talked about efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, stressing the important role US President Donald Trump and the US Jewish community play in the process, the royal court said in a statement. According to the Israeli Walla news website, Abdullah also told the participants, who were not identified in the report, that Israel must conclude an investigation into the deadly shooting of one of its citizens by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman. The guard, Ziv Moyal, was stabbed by a Jordanian on July 23, whereupon he shot and killed the attacker along with a bystander, sparking a diplomatic crisis between Jerusalem and Amman. The entire embassy staff returned to Israel a day later, ater intensive diplomatic efforts to gain the guard’s release. Israel has launched a police probe into the deadly shooting but has yet to publicize its results. A source who was present at the meeting quoted Abdullah as saying he was pressing Israel to end the procedure soon — whether it finds Moyal guilty or innocent.

https://www.timesofisrael.com/jordan-king-said-to-urge-israel-to-wrap-up-embassy-shooting-probe/

Newsline: Top US diplomat says closing embassy in Cuba ‘under review’

The Trump administration will press its concerns about unexplained incidents harming American diplomats in Cuba during a meeting this week in Washington, as the United States considers shuttering its recently re-opened Embassy in Havana. U.S. diplomats will host Cuban official Josefina Vidal, who has been the public face of Cuba’s diplomatic opening with the U.S., and other Cuban officials, a State Department official told The Associated Press. Vidal has served as the chief of U.S. affairs for her country’s foreign ministry and was recently named Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, whose diplomats also were harmed by the mysterious incidents. The United States plans to raise concerns and discuss the status of the ongoing investigation, which has yet to determine a cause of culprit for what the U.S. has variably called “incidents” or “health attacks.” The Trump administration will be represented by John Creamer, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Cuba, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity. On Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disclosed that the Trump administration is considering closing down the embassy, the strongest indication to date that the United States might mount a major diplomatic response. The two former foes reopened embassies in Washington and Havana in 2015 after a half-century of estrangement. “We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said of a possible embassy closure. “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.” Of the 21 medically confirmed U.S. individuals affected — diplomats and their families — some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some are struggling with concentration or common word recall, The Associated Press has reported. The State Department has emphasized that the U.S. still doesn’t know what has occurred. Cuba has denied any involvement or responsibility but stressed that it’s eager to help the U.S. resolve the matter.

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/top-us-diplomat-says-closing-embassy-cuba-under-080641984–politics.html

Newsline: Canberra snubs CIA over Pyongyang embassy

It is not often that the CIA makes a request of its close friend and ally Australia and gets knocked back, but it has happened twice, in 2013 and 2014, and it related to the most sensitive security issue of our time, North Korea. In early 2014, only a few months after the Coalition government led by Tony Abbott had been elected, the US State Department, at the urging of the CIA, made a strong suggestion to Canberra that it consider opening a resident embassy in North Korea. At first, Abbott was inclined to agree. He and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had several discussions about it, although the matter never reached cabinet. Canberra sounded out several friendly governments that had embassies in North Korea to ascertain what value they got from their presence in the Hermit Kingdom and was generally told pretty dismal stories of ambassadors being kept away from meaningful North Korean decision-makers and being subject to relentless, 24/7 surveillance. Australia and North Korea have diplomatic relations, but do not have resident embassies in each others’ countries. At about the time of the American request, the North Koreans had been making life difficult for Australia’s ambassador to Seoul whenever he wanted to go to North Korea on an official trip. The other problem with the Americans’ proposal from Canberra’s point of view was that North Korea would certainly agree to hosting an Australian ­embassy in Pyongyang only if it were allowed to reopen a resident ­embassy in Canberra. North Korean embassies around the world are notorious for using the privileged diplomatic communications and transport rights of embassies to facilitate crime and illegal money-making schemes for their regime. In 2003, at a time when North Korea did have an embassy in Canberra, a North Korean ship, the Pong Su, delivered a shipment of heroin to Australia. The ship, and the heroin, were seized by Australian authorities. Although Canberra co-operates intensely with Washington on North Korea, the decision, on balance, was not to proceed with a new embassy in Pyongyang.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/canberra-tells-cia-thanks-but-no-thanks-over-pyongyang-embassy/news-story/8b3da4a04a161f80be11aaf50a65fbb6

Newsline: Bahamas Embassy Driver Paid $46k Overtime in Washington

Bahamas audits looking into the operations of Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ embassies, consulate general offices and a permanent mission, has pointed to apparent loose protocols where there is “excessive” overtime pay, “exorbitant” spending and thousands in uncollected revenue among other shortfalls. At the Bahamas Embassy in Washington, DC, the ambassador’s chauffeur was paid $46,883.13 in overtime during a three-year period from 2014 to 2016, while at the Bahamas Consulate General’s office in DC, the messenger/driver received overtime amounting to $21,534.92. Auditors said at the embassy in DC, officials paid a company $22,484 for an event, but the entity did not perform the duties which were agreed upon. And at the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, over a period of two year – July 2014 to June 2015 and July 2015 to June 2016 – a total of $28,291.34 was spent to accommodate the hosting of diplomatic and promotional events.

http://www.tribune242.com/news/2017/sep/14/embassy-driver-paid-46k-overtime/

Newsline: US senators urge to close Cuba embassy after acoustic attacks on diplomats

Five GOP senators are calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take more action to protect U.S. diplomats from harassment and acoustic attacks during their service in Cuba. They’re urging Tillerson to remind the Cuban government of its obligation to protect American diplomats and to demand that it take verifiable action to remove these threats to American diplomats and their families. The senators also asked Tillerson to immediately declare all accredited Cuban diplomats in the United States persona non grata and, if Cuba does not take tangible action, to close the U.S. embassy in Havana. In recent months, U.S. Foreign Service officers on temporary duty assigned to the embassy in Havana were mysteriously attacked at four hotels, triggering a range of symptoms in line with similar attacks that began in late 2016, according to a source familiar with the incidents. The first hotel attack began in March, according to the source who identified the hotels as the Nacional, Melia Cohiba, Melia Habana and Capri. The Associated Press first reported Thursday an American diplomat was attacked at the Hotel Capri. Three of the four hotels are within walking distance to the Malecón, Havana’s famed seaside esplanade, and the U.S. embassy.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/five-gop-senators-ask-tillerson-to-close-cuba-embassy-after-attacks-on-diplomats/

Newsline: Mystery of sonic weapon attacks at US embassy in Cuba deepens

The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he’d walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room. Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 US victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top US diplomat has called them “health attacks”. New details learned by the Associated Press indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling US officials who say the facts and the physics don’t add up. Suspicion initially focused on a sonic weapon, and on the Cubans. Yet the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the state department and US intelligence agencies involved in the investigation. Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words, several officials said, the latest signs of more serious damage than the US government initially realized. The United States first acknowledged the attacks in August – nine months after symptoms were first reported.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/14/mystery-of-sonic-weapon-attacks-at-us-embassy-in-cuba-deepens