Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: U.S. Embassy Allegedly Told Police ‘Not to Investigate’ $5.3 Billion in U.S. Aid Misused in Ukraine

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani alleged on Dec. 6 that $5.3 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine was misused, with much of the money going to non-governmental organizations favored by the U.S. embassy. The embassy, which at the time was led by Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, directed Ukrainian officials not to pursue an investigation of the matter, Giuliani, who is a personal attorney for President Donald Trump, wrote on Twitter. “Much of the $5.3B in US Aid Ukraine reported as misused was given to the embassy’s favored NGO’s. At the time Yovanovitch, witness for the Witchunt, was the Amb. That embassy directed the police not to investigate,” Giuliani said. (https://www.theepochtimes.com/giuliani-alleges-5-3-billion-in-u-s-aid-misused-in-ukraine-u-s-embassy-told-police-not-to-investigate_3167304.html) Giuliani did not offer any evidence for his claim. The day before, he wrote that the misuse was discovered by the “Accounts Chamber” in Ukraine, an apparent reference to Ukraine’s Accounting Chamber. The Accounting Chamber is an audit body for Ukraine’s parliament and acts as a watchdog over the state budget. Giuliani leveled the allegation on the heels of a trip to Europe during which he met and interviewed several former Ukrainian officials, including Yuriy Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, and Andrii Telizhenko. Shokin, Lutsenko, and Telizhenko have previously alleged misconduct by Obama-administration officials, including Yovanovitch and former Vice President Joe Biden.

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.

Newsline: China Summons U.S. Embassy Official Over Uighur Bill

China summoned a representative of the U.S. embassy on Wednesday to protest against a U.S. House of Representatives bill about Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority, state television reported. Vice Foreign Minister Qin Gang made “stern representations” to William Klein, the U.S. embassy’s minister counselor for political affairs, and urged the United States to stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs, according to the report. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2019-12-04/china-summons-us-embassy-official-over-uighur-bill) The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would require the Trump administration to toughen its response to China’s crackdown on the Muslim minority, angering Beijing and further straining an already testy relationship.

Newsline: Thousands march in Hong Kong to US consulate

Thousands of people in Hong Kong marched to the U.S. consulate on Sunday in a show of thanks to Congress and President Trump for passing and signing a law supporting their cause last week. Riot police responded with canisters of tear gas and rubber bullets after demonstrators threw bricks and smoke bombs. (https://www.axios.com/hong-kong-protests-us-consulate-trump-law-410779d0-ccc8-445c-bf40-e5c7c5e1a08b.html) The marches ended a brief lull in demonstrations after the region held elections for its district council, which saw pro-democracy candidates win a landslide victory. Some protesters said the marches were necessary to pressure city leader Carrie Lam to make concessions, as she has only accepted one of their five demands thus far — the withdrawal of the extradition bill that set off the months-long crisis.

Newsline: US ambassador to EU accused of sexual misconduct by three women

Gordon Sondland, the Northwest hotelier who has provided key testimony in impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, is facing accusations of sexual misconduct and professional retaliation from three women, according to a report published by ProPublica and Portland Monthly. Sondland, who formerly owned the Ridpath Hotel in Spokane, denied all the allegations including one alleged incident at a Seattle hotel – in a statement to ProPublica, calling them “untrue claims” concocted for political purposes. He also posted a statement on his personal website, calling the reports “underhanded journalism,” laying out what he said were flaws in the stories, and saying he intends to sue both publications “and others involved as swiftly as possible.” (https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2019/nov/29/report-northwest-hotelier-and-ambassador-gordon-so/) The accusations stem from Sondland’s time in business, before his appointment in 2018 as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, a post he secured after donating $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. All three women agreed to be named in detailing their new accusations against Sondland, including Nicole Vogel, owner of Portland Monthly, who says Sondland made unwanted advances after she met with him in 2003 seeking financing for launching the publication.

Newsline: Bolivia’s Interim Government Appoints Temporary US Ambassador

Bolivia’s foreign minister has nominated Walter Oscar Serrate Cuellar as ambassador of a temporary mission to the U.S. Bolivia appointed an envoy to the United States for the first time in 11 years, as the right-wing caretaker government seeks to re-write the country’s foreign policy after the departure of Morales. Interim President Jeanine Anez, who replaced Morales after he quit, has broken ties with socialist Cuba and Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela. Bolivia also fired all its ambassadors except those to Peru and the Vatican.


Newsline: China has more diplomatic posts overseas than US

The Chinese foreign ministry now has more embassies and consulates around the planet than Washington’s State Department, which is still scrambling to fill a number of key positions, including its ambassadors to key allies like Canada, and for two years Washington did not appoint a top envoy to Australia. China boosted its number of diplomatic allies to 180 as of September, with the Republic of Kiribati the latest to establish ties with the Communist republic that month, following the tiny Pacific nation’s decision to switch its allegiance from Taipei to Beijing. Beijing also added five additional embassies and consulates to its long list of overseas missions since 2017, and has added new allies in recent years, mostly by poaching them from Taiwan. A recent report studying the international presence of major powers says Beijing has the world’s largest diplomatic network, while Washington still has a number of “blank spots” in Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean – for instance, North Korea, Iran, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica etc – where Beijing runs embassies and consulates. The 2019 Lowy global diplomatic index published by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute measures the reach of diplomatic infrastructure and presence of G20 and OECD countries as well as that of most Asian nations, by the number of embassies, consulates and other diplomatic posts overseas. Beijing has 276 in total in places from Copenhagen to the Cook Islands, three more than the US, and 96 consulates to Washington’s 88. (https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/11/article/china-has-more-posts-overseas-than-us-report/) Beijing has also doubled down on expanding its networks in key countries, and especially its potential rivals, by opening more consulates. In the US, other than its sprawling embassy compound in Washington, one of the largest of its kind in the American capital, Beijing runs consulates-general in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston and is reportedly considering opening a new consulate in Seattle.