Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: US top diplomat sent to Saudi Arabia

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo smiled and shook hands during meetings in Riyadh with Saudi King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Khashoggi wrote critically about in The Washington Post while in self-imposed exile in America. Saudi officials have called Turkish allegations that Saudi agents killed Khashoggi “baseless,” but reports in U.S. media on Tuesday suggested the Saudis may acknowledge the writer was killed at the consulate, perhaps as part of a botched interrogation. Trump, who dispatched Pompeo to speak to the monarch over Khashoggi’s disappearance, said after talking with King Salman that the slaying could have been carried out by “rogue killers.” Trump provided no evidence, but that statement appeared to offer the U.S.-allied kingdom a possible path out of a global diplomatic firestorm. “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it,” Trump told reporters Monday. “It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. I mean, who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon, but his was a flat denial.” Security forces began setting up barricades in front of the residence just hours after Consul Mohammed al-Otaibi flew out of the country on a 2 p.m. flight, state media reported. Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the consul left the country, two weeks after Khashoggi disappeared at the diplomatic post he ran.

https://www.sacbee.com/news/nation-world/article220083715.html

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Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Canberra apologises after cat picture mistakenly sent out

U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia has apologised on behalf of the Department of State who did just that, accidentally sending a test email featuring a photo of a cat dressed in a Cookie Monster costume. According to the Australian Associated Press, the photo was was titled “cat pajama-jam” and was sent within an email titled “meeting,” as part of a fake meeting invitation sent by the Department of State to recipients. It’s been described as a “training error,” and at least the U.S. Embassy saw the humour in it. “Sorry to disappoint those of you who were hoping to attend this ‘cat pajama-jam’ party, but such an event falls well outside our area of expertise,” U.S. Mission to Australia public affairs counsellor Gavin Sundwall wrote in a subsequent email two days later. “It was a training error made by one of our new staff testing out our email newsletter platform.”

https://mashable.com/article/us-embassy-cat-picture/#vqPhih_qZaqJ

Newsline: Death of American diplomat in Madagascar being investigated as homicide

A longtime U.S. diplomat found dead last month in his apartment near the American embassy in Madagascar was identified and now, federal authorities are investigating his death as a homicide. Newly unsealed court records unsealed show the FBI and U.S. State Department opened the investigation into the Sept. 22 death of Kevin Webb, a human resources officer assigned to the embassy in the capital of the Indian Ocean nation. The court filings revealed that authorities arrested a guest who accompanied Webb to his apartment the night of his death. Webb’s guest, a “foreign national” identified in court papers as Davidasoa Randrianotahiana, entered the residential compound through the front door and provided his name and identification to a guard. He was spotted trying to leave Webb’s apartment later that night by lowering himself down from a second-floor patio, according to an application for a search warrant filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. Once confronted, Randrianotahiana “admitted to the compound guard and a mobile patrol officer that he had fought with Mr. Webb in his apartment and that Mr. Webb had collapsed,” the court filings say. Randrianotahiana had blood on his shoes when he was taken into custody by authorities in Madagascar.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/death-american-diplomat-madagascar-being-investigated-homicide-n919606

Newsline: Saudi Arabia, Turkey have no US ambassadors amid crisis

The disappearance of journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi after visiting a Saudi consulate in Turkey has thrown the large number of diplomatic vacancies under President Donald Trump into the spotlight – notably in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It’s a gap the administration says it has been trying to fix but with limited success. Khashoggi’s case and the fact that there are no American ambassadors in either Ankara or Riyadh have prompted concerns about dozens of unfilled senior State Department positions almost two years into Trump’s presidency. And, those concerns have sparked an increasingly bitter battle with Congress over who is to blame. Aside from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, Trump has yet to nominate candidates for ambassadorial posts in 20 nations, including Australia, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, Singapore and Sweden. At the same time, 46 ambassadorial nominees are still awaiting Senate confirmation, prompting angry complaints from the administration and pushback from Democratic lawmakers. A number of ambassador positions to international organizations also remain unfilled as do 13 senior positions at the State Department headquarters, for which five have no nominee.

https://www.pahomepage.com/news/saudi-arabia-turkey-have-no-us-ambassadors-amid-crisis/1521032286

Newsline: Missing Saudi journalist sent to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul from the Saudi Embassy in Washington

The Saudi journalist, missing for a week, Jamal Khashoggi was sent to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul from the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC. That’s according to NBC news who said friends of the missing journalist said it prompted concerns that he was being lured into a trap. NBC also reports that two other people said he was told to return another day after going to the consulate in Istanbul. President Trump has said he’ll talk to Saudi Arabia officials about the missing journalist at some point. Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights office urged both countries to investigate the case. It has voiced deep concern at the “apparent enforced disappearance”. “We call for cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to make the findings public,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a Geneva news briefing. Saudi Arabian officials have invited Turkish experts and related officials to visit its consulate in Istanbul. That’s according to Turkey’s state-owned news agency Anadolu. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said a search would be conducted there. Khashoggi entered the consulate last Tuesday and has not been heard of or seen since, according to his fiancée and friends.

https://www.euronews.com/2018/10/09/did-embassy-in-dc-send-khashoggi-to-istanbul

Newsline: New Embassy In Jerusalem Attracts Devout Christians From The U.S.

The new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem is a pilgrimage site for some American Christians. They snap selfies there and say it’s fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. In May, a U.S. consulate building in the residential outskirts of Jerusalem was renamed as the embassy as the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Most of the world rejects that because Palestinians seek part of the city for their capital. But the embassy has become a tourist site for people who are elated by Trump’s move.

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/09/655757013/new-embassy-in-jerusalem-attracts-devout-christians-from-the-u-s

Newsline: UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has resigned

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is leaving the administration at the end of the year. Trump spoke as he and Haley met in the Oval Office, shortly after word came of her plans to resign. He called Haley a “very special” person, adding that she told him six months ago that she might want to take some time off. Trump said that together they had “solved a lot of problems.” It’s the latest shake-up in the turbulent Trump administration just weeks before the November midterm elections. Haley’s resignation was a closely guarded secret. Congressional Republicans involved in foreign policy matters and some key U.S. allies did not get advance word from Haley or the White House. No reason for the resignation was immediately provided. Haley, who is speculated to hold aspirations for higher office, said at the White House: “No I’m not running in 2020.”

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/politics/un-ambassador-nikki-haley-to-resign