Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Canada’s ambassador to China meets with second detained Canadian

Canada’s ambassador to China has met with the second Canadian detained in China on suspicion of threatening national security, Canada’s foreign ministry said. The ministry said Ambassador John McCallum had met with Michael Spavor, a business consultant, two days after meeting with another detained Canadian, Michael Kovrig, a think tank employee. “Canadian consular officials continue to provide consular services to him and his family and will continue to seek further access to Mr Spavor,” the ministry said. China arrested two Canadians after Ottawa detained a senior executive from tech giant Huawei at the behest of the United States. “We are being absolutely clear on standing up for our citizens who have been detained, trying to figure out why, trying to work with China to demonstrate that this not acceptable,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to Toronto’s Citytv. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also branded the arrests “unacceptable”. Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer at Huawei, was released on bail in Vancouver Tuesday pending extradition to the US. She is accused of violating US sanctions on Iran. Beijing threatened Canada with “grave consequences” if she was not freed.



Newsline: Canada’s ambassador is granted access to ex-diplomat held by China

Canada’s ambassador to China has been granted consular access to Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat held by Beijing, according to a statement released by Ottawa on Friday. Kovrig was arrested during a visit to the Chinese capital on Monday. “Ambassador [John] McCallum met with him in Beijing,” said a statement from Canada’s foreign ministry, adding that Ottawa was pressing for access to Michael Spavor, a second national detained in China. The pair were arrested for what Beijing has said is suspicion of threatening its national security, but is widely believed to be retaliation against Canada’s December 1 arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the US. Meng was arrested while changing planes in Vancouver, outraging China and sparking a diplomatic stand-off between the North American allies and Beijing. On Tuesday a Canadian judge ordered her released on C$10 million (US$7.5 million) bail, pending a US extradition hearing.


Newsline: 25 US employees at embassy in Cuba did suffer inner-ear damage

Two dozen U.S. diplomats and government employees who experienced dizziness and ear pain from a mysterious illness while assigned to Cuba were found to have suffered inner-ear damage, according to a new study by doctors who first treated them. The report said the majority of the 25 individuals reported intense pain in one or both ears and experienced tinnitus, or a ringing in ears. All of the individuals noticed “unsteadiness and features of cognitive impairment,” according to the report. The study by physicians at the University of Miami and the University of Pittsburgh was published Wednesday in Laryngoscope Investigative Otolaryngology journal. The doctors found that the patients displayed “abnormalities in the otolithic organs,” or damage to the inner ear that controls balance.


Newsline: Saudi ambassador again departs US amid Khashoggi controversy

Saudi Ambassador to the United States Khalid bin Salman, who has faced withering criticism for his handling of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has left Washington for the second time since the killing. News of his departure comes as the Financial Times reported that Prince Khalid is next in line to become national security adviser, fueling speculation across Washington that he may have left his post for good. The ambassador “is attending Formula E taking place just outside Riyadh and plans to be back afterwards,” an embassy spokeswoman told Al-Monitor via email. The ambassador previously departed Washington in October under a fog of criticism after a Saudi prosecutor confirmed Riyadh’s role in the killing. Prince Khalid returned in late November to attend the funeral of former US President George H.W. Bush. The ambassador stirred controversy by denying Riyadh’s role even as a steady drip of Turkish and US intelligence leaks began to link Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directly to Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 slaying. The CIA concluded in November that Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, according to press reports.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/12/saudi-arabia-ambassador-kbs-khashoggi-washington-departs.html

Newsline: After U.S. move, Israel eyeing site for an ‘embassy quarter’ in Jerusalem

The Housing and Construction Ministry is examining a site in East Talpiot for an embassy row in the capital. Thus far, only the US and Guatemala have moved their embassy to Jerusalem, but several other countries have said they are weighing moving their embassies, including Australia, Brazil, Honduras and the Czech Republic. Now Housing and Construction Minister Yoav Galant is preparing for the possibility of an influx of embassies, eyeing a 100,000 sq. m. plot of state land in East Talpiot. “I am convinced that many more countries will move their embassies to Jerusalem,” Galant said. “Therefore I instructed my ministry to come up with scenarios for appropriate solutions for the embassies in the future, including a unique ‘embassies quarter.’” Galant plans for the area to include buildings in which nine countries can have their embassies, as well as housing for workers nearby. It would be surrounded by a wall for security, but still allow for there to be a view of the Old City.


Newsline: Detention Of 2 Canadians Raises Stakes In China-U.S.-Canada Diplomatic Dispute

China on Thursday confirmed it has detained two Canadian men, raising the stakes in a three-way international dispute over the case of a Chinese telecoms executive facing possible extradition from Canada to the United States. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said entrepreneur Michael Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig were taken into custody on Monday on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China. Lu said Canada was informed about the detentions, but declined to say whether the men have been provided with lawyers. He said the cases are being handled separately by local bureaus of the national intelligence agency in Beijing, where Kovrig was picked up, and the northeastern city of Dandong, where Spavor had been living. “The legal rights of the two Canadians are being safeguarded,” Lu told reporters at a daily briefing. The two cases ratchet up pressure on Canada, which is holding Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies. She was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1 but released on bail. The U.S. has requested her extradition to face charges of bank fraud.


Newsline: Detention of former Canadian diplomat in China being taken ‘very seriously’ by Canada, US

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is taking the detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China ‘very seriously.’ Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale also weighed in, saying “we are deeply concerned by the situation.” Canada’s Global Affairs Department says it’s aware of the detention of a Canadian citizen in China and has raised the case with the Chinese government. The department says in a statement it is “seized with this case” and is providing consular assistance to the family of the Canadian. It declined to say more or state his name. But a person familiar with the matter says former diplomat Michael Kovrig was detained Monday night in Beijing during one of his regular visits to the city. The detention follows Chinese warnings to Canada of consequences for its recent arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at Vancouver’s airport. A State Department spokesman says the U.S. is concerned about the detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino says the U.S. condemns “all forms of arbitrary detention” — a comment that followed a question Tuesday about the detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing during a visit to Beijing. Palladino noted that the U.S. travel advisory for China suggests that anyone visiting the country exercise caution based on potential for American citizens who are visiting or residing there to be arbitrarily interrogated and detained.