Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Canada

Newsline: Trump’s UN ambassador pick grilled on her 300 absences as Canada envoy

United Nations ambassador nominee Kelly Craft appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her confirmation hearing on June 19, and while she praised the UN as a “vital institution,” much of the hearing was spent examining her record as the US’s top diplomat in Canada. (https://www.vox.com/world/2019/6/19/18691820/kelly-craft-united-nations-ambassador-senate-confirmation-hearing) Craft has served as the US ambassador to Canada since September 2017. But Politico reported that she was “frequently absent” from her diplomatic post in Ottawa. Flight records obtained by Politico showed Craft took 128 flights between the US and Canada in a 15-month period, which comes out to about a flight per week. Democrats pressed Craft on her absences, with Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), saying State Department records show Craft had been absent for more than 300 days between October 23, 2017, and June 19, 2019. “That’s an extraordinary number of absences,” Menendez said, using a calendar marked in red to note the number of days Craft was reportedly away from Canada. Menendez said those days were listed as official travel, but Craft was in Kentucky — her home state — on some of those days. He asked Craft to turn over additional records to address the discrepancies.

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Newsline: Canada suspends Venezuela embassy operations, reviewing Maduro envoys

Canada will suspend operations at its embassy in Venezuela immediately because its diplomats will no longer be able to obtain visas, the Canadian foreign minister said on June 2. Chrystia Freeland said in a statement that President Nicolas Maduro’s “regime has taken steps to limit the ability of foreign embassies to function in Venezuela.” Canada is one of a dozen countries in the Lima Group regional bloc, along with Brazil, Argentina and Chile, which recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the legitimate Venezuelan leader and is demanding that Maduro resign. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-venezuela-politics-canada/canada-suspends-venezuela-embassy-operations-reviewing-maduro-envoys-idUSKCN1T4005) “Unfortunately, at the end of this month, Canadian diplomats in Venezuela will no longer be in a position to obtain diplomatic accreditation under the Maduro regime, and their visas will expire,” Freeland said in the statement. “Therefore, we are left with no choice but to temporarily suspend our operations at the embassy of Canada to Venezuela, effective immediately. Freeland said Canada was “also evaluating the status of Venezuelan diplomats appointed by the Maduro regime to Canada.”

Newsline: Philippines recalls ambassador to Canada in row over rubbish

The Philippines has recalled its ambassador to Canada in an escalating row over the disposal of waste wrongly labelled as recyclable. The Philippines’ foreign secretary said Canada missed a May 15 deadline to retrieve rubbish shipped out in 2014. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48290963) Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “sail to Canada and dump their garbage there”. Reports say the waste amounts to many dozens of containers filled with common household rubbish like soiled nappies. “At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out,” Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr said in a tweet. “Canada missed the… deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there.” Mr Locsin said what triggered him to pull out the envoys was Canada’s failure to show up at a meeting with Philippine customs officials.

Newsline: US Ambassador to Canada nominated for UN ambassador

President Donald Trump on May 2 formally nominated U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft to be his next United Nations ambassador, a job without a permanent owner since the end of last year. Craft would replace former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who left the U.N. post at the end of 2018. The position is almost certain to be less powerful than it was under Haley, given indications that Trump, a skeptic of multilateral international organizations, will take it out of the Cabinet. Craft declined to comment on her nomination. (https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/02/kelly-craft-united-nations-ambassador-1404667) If confirmed, Craft’s new position would put her in close proximity to international climate talks that directly impact her husband’s business interests. Craft stumbled in her first Canadian TV interview when asked about the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris climate accord, saying it was important to listen to “both sides” of the science.

Newsline: U.S. failing Canada in diplomatic dispute with China

Canada suffers Chinese wrath after detaining Huawei executive at U.S. request, including a refusal to buy canola The Canadian ambassador to the United States says he has asked the U.S. for help with the diplomatic spat between China and Canada, but it appears the U.S. doesn’t want to get involved. “We’ve heard so many times, ‘thank you very much for what you’re doing, is there anything we can do to help?’ and my answer has been very clear as to what they can do to help and the answer is ‘oh, OK, we’ll get back to you,’ ” said David MacNaughton. (https://www.producer.com/2019/04/u-s-failing-canada-in-china-dispute-diplomat/) “We do expect the United States, in that we are such a strong ally of yours, we do expect you to be a strong ally of ours, particularly when the actions that are being taken against us are in retribution for things we did at your behest.” Speaking to members of North American Agricultural Journalists during the group’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., MacNaughton said he couldn’t comment on how the U.S. could help because the subject is too sensitive. “They know exactly what they could do to help,” he said. China has detained two Canadians, condemned another to death and is no longer importing canola in retaliation for the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou by Canadian officials on behalf of the U.S. MacNaughton said the U.S. should be doing more to help Canada deal with China. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for us to expect the United States to deal with that situation the same way as if there were two of your citizens being detained in China,” he said.

Newsline: Canadian embassy is holding on in Venezuela

The United States signed an accord yesterday that will allow for a U.S. ‘interests section’ in the Swiss embassy in Caracas, the same arrangement it has had at the Swiss embassy in Tehran for the past 40 years. But the Canadians remain entrenched in their five-story embassy on the corner of Altamira Square, with no plans to go anywhere. “I’m glad that Canada didn’t do the same thing as the U.S. because you need people on the ground in places like Venezuela to get a sense of what the citizens are saying on the ground,” said Ben Rowswell, the last person to serve as a full ambassador for Canada in Caracas. Canadian officials and their Venezuelan counterparts — both the ones who support current President Nicolás Maduro and those backing opposition leader Juan Guaido — have described a strange diplomatic equilibrium that allows Canada’s embassy to remain in Caracas despite government orders to leave, and also lets Maduro’s government retain five diplomatic properties in Canada, despite the fact that Ottawa doesn’t recognize it. “I have an accreditation issued by the Government of Canada as a diplomat in this country,” Prof. Luis Acuna Cedeno told CBC News. The former graduate of the University of Western Ontario served as both a cabinet minister under President Hugo Chavez and as governor of Sucre state under Nicolas Maduro. Today, he retains control of Venezuela’s embassy in Sandy Hill, Ottawa, with the title of ‘charge d’affaires’. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/venezuela-maduro-canada-embassy-1.5087483?cmp=rss) “The diplomatic mission of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has its staff working at the embassy in the city of Ottawa, the general consulate of Montreal, the general consulate of Vancouver and the general consulate of Toronto. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not have any other diplomatic staff working in Canada. As it is already known, in December 2017, Canada decided to downgrade diplomatic relations with Venezuela to the level of Chargé d’Affaires.” Meanwhile, the man Canada does recognize as Venezuela’s legitimate representative is unable to set foot in his country’s embassy or official residence. He’s also barred from becoming a diplomat in Canada because of his immigration status as a Canadian permanent resident. Orlando Viera Blanco told CBC News he plans to renounce his permanent resident status. “We are in the process, just to respect the protocols, and to improve our final status as an ambassador. The Vienna Convention requires us not to be a citizen or a permanent resident as part of the process that we have to comply (with).” Viera Blanco said he’s also unable to visit the nation he represents because he faces a criminal charge of treason for accepting the post of representative for the man Canada has recognized as Venezuela’s acting president, Juan Guaidó. The unusual modus vivendi the parties described to CBC News appears to have endured because — for the moment — it works for all three parties. Canada’s toleration of the presence of two rival representatives from Venezuela is a pragmatic quid pro quo for Venezuela’s tolerance of the Canadian diplomatic presence in Caracas.

Newsline: Case of detained Canadians in China raises concerns among diplomats

Mar. 19 will mark the 100th day since two Canadians detained in China have had a proper night’s sleep. Since their arrest last December, they are likely to have been kept largely in the dark about the charges against them – but the lights in their cells will have stayed on day and night. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3002222/china-based-diplomats-warn-case-detained-canadians-kovrig-and) But the detention of the former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig – held along with his fellow Canadian Michael Spavor on December 10 – has shocked other diplomats stationed in China, who have been exploring legal game plans to protect themselves should they ever find themselves in the same situation. “It’s a sword of Damocles hanging over all diplomats. We are very concerned. Everyone is talking about it,” said one diplomat working in Beijing, adding that many fear returning to China on anything other than a diplomatic passport in future. Despite attempts by Beijing to separate the case from Kovrig’s work with Canada’s foreign service, many diplomatic staff are worried they could one day face a similar predicament.