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U.S. recalls ambassador to Zambia after dispute over gay rights

The United States has recalled its ambassador to Zambia after he waded into a dispute over gay and lesbian rights with the president of the southern African nation. The U.S. State Department confirmed it has recalled diplomat Daniel Foote after it was told Zambian President Edgar Lungu would no longer work with him. Saying they were “dismayed” by Lungu’s stance, U.S. officials conceded Foote’s position in Zambia was “no longer tenable” after the American envoy last month criticized 15-year prison sentences handed down to two gay men convicted of having sex. Sexual relations among gay Zambians, even consensual, is outlawed. (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/12/24/US-recalls-ambassador-to-Zambia-after-dispute-over-gay-rights/7611577194532/) The department said there are no immediate plans to send another diplomat to Zambia, Bloomberg reported. “Despite this action, the United States remains committed to our partnership with the Zambian people,” a State Department spokesperson said, emphasizing that the United States “firmly opposes abuses against” lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Zambian Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji first registered displeasure with Foote last month after the U.S. ambassador said he was “horrified” at the long prison terms imposed on the gay men. Malanji said the government strongly disagreed with Foote’s view, and concluded that his questioning Zambian courts “is tantamount to questioning the Zambian Constitution.”

Newsline: State Department defends US ambassador to Zambia

The State Department defended U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Daniel Foote after the country’s president said he should leave over his defense of a gay couple sentenced to 15 years in prison under a colonial-era sodomy law. Media reports indicate Edgar Lungu told ZNBC TV, a government-owned television station, his administration has “complained officially to the American government.” “We are waiting for their response because we don’t want such people in our midst,” said Lungu, referring to Foote. “We want him gone.” (https://www.washingtonblade.com/2019/12/19/state-department-defends-us-ambassador-to-zambia/) Foote late last month publicly criticized the sentencing of the two men who were convicted of “crimes against the order of nature.” Foote later said “threats made against me” prompted him to not attend World AIDS Day events. “We are dismayed by the Zambian government’s statement that Ambassador Foote’s position ‘is no longer tenable,’ which we consider to be the equivalent of a declaration that the ambassador is persona non grata,” a State Department official told the Washington Blade in a statement. “Despite this action, the United States remains committed to our partnership with the Zambian people.” Zambia is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized. The Trump administration earlier this year announced U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell would lead an initiative that encourages nations to decriminalize homosexuality.

Newsline: The Netherlands to get three new embassies

The Netherlands is to establish three new embassies, in Armenia, Niger and Burkina Faso, foreign minister Stef Blok has told MPs. The current diplomatic missions in Niamey and Ouagadougou will be expanded and given full embassy status as part of cabinet efforts to focus more attention on the Sahel region, Blok said. (https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2019/12/diplomatic-expansion-the-netherlands-to-get-three-new-embassies/) Both offices are currently satellites of the Dutch embassy in Mali. The new embassy in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, means there will also be Dutch representation throughout the region, the minister said. In addition, the current Dutch diplomatic missions in Abuja (Nigeria), Amman, Bagdad, Beijing, Bogota, Brussels, Caracas, Geneva, New York, Rabat, Tirana and Vilnius will be strengthened, Blok said. The government’s coalition accord included a commitment to spend €40m to strengthen the Dutch diplomatic presence abroad and reopen embassies and consulates. Some €10m has already been spent on adding 29 posts to the Dutch diplomatic mission south and east of the EU, because of the instability in these regions. In May 2017, the government advisory board for international affairs AIV said €70m to €80m a year needed to be spent to bring Dutch embassies up to scratch following years of cutbacks.

Newsline: Libya closes Egypt embassy citing ‘security’ reasons

Libya’s embassy in Egypt was closed indefinitely from Dec. 15, the mission said on its Facebook page citing security concerns. “The embassy of Libya in Cairo… suspended its work due to security reasons starting Sunday and until further notice,” a statement said without giving further details. (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/libya-closes-egypt-embassy-citing-security-reasons-149880) It however flatly denied in a separate statement reports suggesting that some embassy staff had broken ranks with the UN-recognised Government of National Accord based in Tripoli. The GNA’s foreign ministry confirmed that the embassy had been closed indefinitely, in a statement on Facebook. It said the work at the mission was suspended in order to protect staff after a series of recent “violations” targeting the embassy, including attempts by some to “blackmail” employees in order to obtain money. The foreign ministry gave no further details but said: “work is underway with the Egyptian authorities to put an end to these violations and secure the embassy as required.” The embassy would resume its operations when it is secured, it added. The Libyan embassy in neighboring Egypt has long been at the center of a power struggle between the country’s rival administrations in the east and the west.

Newsline: Greece expels Libyan ambassador in dispute with Turkey

Greece ordered the expulsion of the Libyan ambassador in the latest escalation of a dispute over a controversial deal signed between Libya’s U.N.-supported government and Turkey on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said the ambassador had been summoned to the ministry in the morning to be informed of the decision and was given 72 hours to leave the country. Turkey’s foreign minister condemned the move as “outrageous,” while the Libyan foreign minister described it as “unacceptable.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/greece-expels-libyan-ambassador-in-row-with-turkey/2019/12/06/f158bb5a-1819-11ea-80d6-d0ca7007273f_story.html) The deal reached between Libya and Turkey would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, over the objections of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically. All three have blasted the accord as being contrary to international law. The deal has added tension to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Newsline: Kenya to open embassy in Jakarta in 2020

The government of Kenya plans to open an embassy in Jakarta in 2020, according to the Kenyan cabinet secretary of foreign affairs, Monica Juma. This was revealed by Juma during a meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi on the sidelines of the 12th Bali Democracy Forum in Nusa Dua, Bali. “Preparations are being made and hopefully by mid-2020 the Kenyan Embassy in Jakarta will be opened,” Retno said. Kenya’s mission to Indonesia is currently led by a non-resident envoy based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/12/06/kenya-to-open-embassy-in-jakarta-in-2020.html) Diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Kenya began in 1979 and a few years after that, in 1983, Indonesia opened its embassy in Nairobi.

Newsline: US, Sudan to Exchange Ambassadors for First Time in 23 Years

The United States and Sudan will exchange ambassadors for the first time in more than two decades, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday. The announcement came as Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was on his first visit to Washington. “This decision is a meaningful step forward in strengthening the U.S.-Sudan bilateral relationship, particularly as the civilian-led transitional government works to implement the vast reforms,” Pompeo said in a statement. (https://www.voanews.com/usa/us-sudan-exchange-ambassadors-first-time-23-years) Pompeo said the two countries would begin “the process of exchanging ambassadors after a 23-year gap.” During his Washington visit, Hamdok sought support for Sudan’s transition toward democracy after strongman Omar al-Bashir was ousted this year after 30 years of rule. Hamdok hopes to secure Sudan’s removal from the U.S. “state sponsor of terrorism blacklist,” on which Sudan has been listed for more than 25 years.