Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Regions

Newsline: Hard-Line Supporter of Israel Offers to Pay for US Embassy in Jerusalem

Sheldon G. Adelson, one of the most hawkish supporters of Israel among American Jews, has offered to help fund the construction of a new American Embassy in Jerusalem, according to the State Department, which on Friday said it was reviewing whether it could legally accept the donation. The total price tag to build the new embassy to replace the current one in Tel Aviv is estimated at around $500 million, according to one former State Department official. While private donors have previously paid for renovations to American ambassadors’ overseas residences, Mr. Adelson’s contribution would be likely to far surpass those gifts — and could further strain American diplomacy in the Middle East. Before the embassy is built, the Trump administration plans to open a temporary one in Jerusalem. On Friday, it said that it was accelerating the projected opening in time to mark the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel on May 14.


Newsline: Explosion rocks Kabul near US Embassy

At least two people were killed and seven wounded Saturday in an attack in Afghanistan’s capital for which the Islamic State group claimed responsibility. A suicide bomber struck in the diplomatic area of Kabul near NATO headquarters and the U.S. Emassy, Afghanistan Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said, adding that the casualty count could rise.


Newsline: 400 kilos of cocaine found in Russian embassy in Argentina

Six people, including a former Russian diplomat and an Argentinian police officer, have been arrested following an investigation into cocaine smuggling through the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires. The arrests were the result of a joint operation between Russia and Argentina which began in December 2016 when cocaine was discovered on the embassy’s grounds. “We have dismantled an international cocaine trafficking organization operating between Argentina, Russia and Germany,” Argentina’s Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told journalists on Thursday. Russia’s Ambassador to Argentina Viktor Koronelli in late 2016 alerted local authorities after finding 16 bags of drugs hidden in a school on the embassy’s grounds. Argentinian police seized the 389 kilograms of cocaine worth over $60 million and replaced it with bags of flour fitted with a tracking device, Reuters reports. The bags were then traced as they were shipped to Russia as diplomatic luggage in December last year. Two men who collected the bags in Russia have been arrested. Bullrich named a “Mr. K,” who “remains at large in Germany” as responsible for supplying the cocaine to the Russian Embassy. A former embassy official identified as Ali Abyanov, who reportedly helped plan the shipment, was detained at his apartment in Moscow on Thursday, media report.


Newsline: Japanese men nabbed in shooting at de facto North Korea embassy

Police said they arrested two Japanese men believed to be right-wing activists for shooting early Friday at North Korea’s de facto embassy in Tokyo. The men fired several shots at the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, a pro-North Korean group representing ethnic Koreans in Japan, Tokyo metropolitan police said. The men, aged 46 and 56, drove by in a vehicle and one of them fired several shots, police said. The gate was damaged but nobody was injured. The motive was not known. Japanese media reports said the two men have staged protests criticizing the pro-North Korean group, also known as Chongryon. Patrolling police rushed to the closely monitored building and arrested the two on the spot, confiscating a gun, police said. The two men face allegations of damaging a building and could also face allegations of violating gun control laws.


Newsline: US Embassy in Montenegro Is Attacked, but Only Attacker Is Killed

An unidentified man threw an explosive device, probably a hand grenade, at the U.S. embassy building in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, around midnight before blowing himself up, the government said on Thursday. No casualties were reported from the embassy which confirmed a small explosion near its compound. The U.S. State Department said checks were being carried out to ensure all staff were safe. Policemen with submachine guns and police vehicles were out on the streets near the embassy building on Thursday morning after the incident. The government, in a tweet, said that about half an hour after midnight “an unknown person” had committed suicide with an explosive device.


Newsline: US senator probes if embassy officials helped Trump Jr. on speech for India trip

In response to a query by a U.S. senator, the embassy in New Delhi said Thursday that its staff did not advise or assist Donald Trump Jr. on a foreign policy address he is set to give Friday while on a private business trip to India. The embassy was responding to questions about a letter released Wednesday by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to the U.S. ambassador in India raising concerns about the embassy’s engagement with Trump, who is in India for the week to promote various Trump real estate projects around the country. The embassy only provided routine support to his Secret Service detail, it said. The president’s eldest son is set to give a foreign policy speech at a global business summit in New Delhi on Friday titled “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” alongside India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and other high-ranking Indian government officials.


Newsline: 45 Countries Still Don’t Have A US Ambassador

As the two Koreas paraded under a united banner at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on February 9th, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea was a notable absentee at the event. Victor Cha was expected to become the next U.S. ambassador to South Korea but his appointment was withdrawn in late January due to his views on a possible preventative strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities. His concerns about military action put him at odds with the Trump administration, however, and the position of ambassador still remains vacant in Seoul. This story isn’t all that unusual given that South Korea is one of 45 countries around the world without a U.S. ambassador, according to the U.S. State Department. Given how important an ambassador is in negotiating foreign policy at the local level, it does come as quite a surprise that many high-profile countries and key U.S. allies appear on the list of vacancies. In February 2018, Australia, Germany, Turkey and Saudi Arabia all appear among the long list of nations without a U.S. ambassador. The reason for this trend goes all the way back to the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration when he fired all ambassadors politically appointed by Barack Obama. Since then, Trump’s administration has struggled to fill the empty positions. Even though some progress has been made since last year when China and India had no U.S. ambassadors (meaning half of the world’s population didn’t have one).