Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Czech ambassador to the U.S. once killed a crocodile with a knife

The homes of ambassadors are often decorated with expensive art, historical photographs and fancy awards. But Czech Ambassador Hynek Kmoníček’s residence in Washington, D.C. is more like a zoo for dead animals. Throughout his diplomatic career, Kmoníček has sharpened his hunting skills. He has served all over the world and has the trophies to prove it: a kangaroo from Australia, a snake from India, a crocodile from Sudan, a wolf from Mongolia. “Are you a real man or just another European?” says Kmoníček with a laugh, imitating skeptical greetings when he gets to a country for the first time. “So sometimes you have to prove yourself. Sometimes the poor animal will be the victim.” Kmoníček became the Czech Republic’s top diplomat in the U.S. last year and says that his time working outside of the US and Europe has made him numb “sudden changes.” “With my previous diplomatic experience, it was clear it is very hard to surprise me,” he explains. “President Trump obviously announced that he intentionally wants to be unpredictable and I understand that for some bureaucrats it could be a tough thing, because diplomats love predictability.” When he was in Sudan, Kmoníček caught a crocodile and slaughtered it with a knife. He learned the process by watching his Sudanese diplomatic counterparts, who he says were more than a foot taller than him. They told him to aim the knife for the animal’s blind spot right between its eyes.



Newsline: New US Embassy In Iceland But No Ambassador

A new home for the US embassy in Iceland is set to be completed in Reykjavík next summer. There is no work, however, on when the position of ambassador will be filled. The post has been unoccupied for 572 days, since the departure of Robert Barber. “All work in the embassy is proceeding according to routine under the leadership of the deputy ambassador,” the embassy’s public affairs officer Oscar Avila stated. Avila added that there is no way of knowing when the next ambassador to the country will be appointed. The projected cost of the new embassy building is ISK 6.7 billion ($62m/€55m). The building design includes bullet-proof glass in all windows and thick security walls around the property. This is the third time Icelanders have had to wait for an ambassador for a long period. Nine years ago, Robert S. Connan was appointed to take over the position from Carol Van Voorst, but never took on the position. Eventually Luis Arrega was appointed to the post, arriving in Iceland one year and nine months after Voorst left.


Newsline: U.S. Embassy may resume Abuja consular services

The U.S. Embassy has said the suspended consular services in Abuja may resume after the Eid-el-Kabir holidays. The Federal Government of Nigeria has declared August 21 and 22 as public holidays to mark the Eid-el-Kabir. The embassy had announced temporary suspension of its regular services for visas and American Citizen Services in Abuja. “We regret the inconvenience this has caused to our applicants in Abuja and hope to resume operations after the Eid-el-Kabir holidays. “Please monitor the Facebook and Webpage of the U.S. Embassy for the next status update of consular operations in Abuja.” It, however, noted that other offices within the Embassy remained open. The embassy stressed that consular functions at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos were not affected with the development.


Newsline: US Embassy Closes Abuja Consular Section ‘Until Further Notice’

The U.S Embassy has announced a temporary closure of its Abuja Consulate section until further notice. This means all consular appointments at the Abuja US Embassy for visa and American Citizen Service are temporarily on hold. This was contained in a publication on the website of US Embassy in Nigeria. “Scheduled visa and ACS applicants for Abuja will be contacted for rescheduling,” read the statement. It encouraged applicants to monitor the Website of the Embassy for a later announcement of resumed consular operations in Abuja.


Newsline: US Diplomat Visits Detained Pastor in Turkey

America’s top diplomat in Turkey has visited the U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson who’s being held under house arrest in the city of Izmir and called on Turkey to resolve Brunson’s case transparently and without delay.


Newsline: How Steven Seagal went from American actor to Russian diplomat

Steven Seagal’s sudden appointment as a political envoy to the Kremlin highlights the strange journey that the former high-grossing actor has undergone over the past few years. On August 4, 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Seagal had been appointed as a special representative in charge of “Russian-US humanitarian ties.” According to the Ministry, Seagal — who was awarded Russian citizenship in 2016 by Russian President Vladimir Putin — will be tasked with facilitating “relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field.” This will include “cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges” as well as “building a more positive atmosphere in bilateral affairs.” “It is expected that in his new role, Steven Seagal will assist in the development and implementation of various projects for bilateral cooperation in the field of culture, arts, science, education, sports, public and youth exchanges, as well as participate in respective events in Russia and abroad, and maintain contacts with partners in the United States,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated on its official Facebook page. Seagal’s newfound role as a special representative is an unpaid, voluntary position, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. The sole purpose of the appointment is for Seagal to strengthen “mutual understanding and trust” between the two nations. ”It is the case when people’s diplomacy meets halfway traditional diplomacy,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added. Seagal took to twitter to share his thoughts on the appointment: “I am deeply humbled and honoured to have been appointed as a special representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in charge of Russian and American Humanitarian ties,” Seagal said. “I hope we can strive for peace, harmony and positive results in the world. I take this honour very seriously” Once regarded as a successful American actor, Seagal has since become a useful ally to dictators in the post-Soviet space, including Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov and Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko. His friendly relationship with Putin has been well-documented, and has helped bolster the president’s image during an unpopular period in his presidency.


Newsline: Denmark is snubbing the American ambassador

While the American ambassador’s reception was previously a highlight of the Danish LGBTQ pride festivities, this year Danes are publicly snubbing the event as a protest of the Trump administration’s nonstop attacks on LGBTQ people. Former ambassador Rufus Gifford, a gay man, hosted the annual celebration during the Obama presidency when an invitation was the hottest ticket in Copenhagen. This time around, even Copenhagen Pride is refusing to attend. Trump’s ambassador, Carla Sands, has inherited a difficult position when it comes to LGBTQ rights. While Gifford was Obama’s unofficial “ambassador to the gay community,” the Trump administration has been actively hostile to LGBTQ people.