Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Russian Embassy Proposes Twitter as Communication Channel With US State Department

The Russian embassy in Washington has proposed using Twitter as a channel for diplomatic correspondence with the State Department after a breakdown in communication this week. The initiative follows Russia’s unsuccessful attempts to set up a meeting between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ethiopia this week. The U.S. government repeatedly denied receiving a formal request for the meeting, while Russian diplomats insisted that a request had been sent. The Russian embassy’s press secretary, Nick Lakhonin, issued the proposal in a tweet on Friday directed at State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert. The Russian diplomat called Twitter a “more reliable & quicker communication channel” and said his embassy was willing to send diplomatic correspondence through direct messages on the social network, provided the State Department followed the embassy’s account. “Let our ministers meet!” he added.



Newsline: US Embassy warns about threat to Mexico resort town, issues travel ban

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City received information about a security threat in Playa del Carmen Wednesday, leading to a travel ban for U.S. government employees. Embassy officials did not release details about the threat in the Yucatan resort town, south of Cancun. The report comes just as schools and universities prepare for spring break. The U.S. Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo was closed until further notice.


Newsline: US Embassy in Turkey resumes service after security threat

The U.S. Embassy in Turkey says it is preparing to resume regular services after a security threat forced it to close for a day. The embassy in Ankara was closed on Monday as police in the Turkish Black Sea coastal city of Samsun detained four Islamic State suspects while investigating a possible attack plot involving the American facility. Only limited services were provided on Tuesday, but spokesman David Gainer says the embassy “will be operating as normal” on Wednesday.



Newsline: Cuba condemns US cuts to embassy staff over ‘health attacks’

A senior Cuban official is condemning Washington’s decision to make the withdrawal of 60 percent of the U.S. Embassy staff permanent in response to mysterious ailments affecting American diplomats. Carlos Fernandez de Cossio says the decision is motivated by politics and has nothing to do with the safety of diplomats. The new director of U.S. issues at the ministry told reporters Monday that the cuts will hurt consular services and make travel more difficult for ordinary citizens. He says it may also erode long-standing cooperation on migration. The State Department made the cuts permanent last week. It initially scaled back staff in October in response to hearing loss and other ailments affecting at least 24 U.S. citizens. U.S. investigators have not determined a cause and Cuba denies any wrongdoing.



Newsline: Turkey detains 4 IS suspects in probe of US embassy threat

Turkish police detained four Islamic State suspects as part of an investigation into a possible attack on the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the country’s state-run news agency reported on Monday. The arrests came as the embassy was closed on Monday over an unspecified security threat. The Anadolu Agency said police detained four Iraqi nationals in connection with the threat against the embassy. Security was high outside the U.S. embassy on Monday, and police searched pedestrians before allowing them to enter the street where the embassy and other buildings are located. The U.S. embassy said on its web page late on Sunday that the mission would be closed due to a security threat, and urged U.S. citizens to avoid the embassy as well as large crowds. It also advised citizens to “keep a low profile.” Embassy spokesman David Gainer said the mission would open on Tuesday but would not provide visa services or services to American citizens — in an apparent measure aimed at limiting visits and minimizing risks to the public.



Newsline: US Ambassador To Mexico Is Latest Career Diplomat To Resign

Roberta Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has handed in her resignation. The career diplomat, with more than 30 years in government service, says it was a difficult decision to leave. Jacobson, 57, is the latest in a string of high-level diplomats to depart the State Department since President Trump took office. In a note to embassy staff, Jacobson said, “The decision is all the more difficult because of my profound belief in the importance of the U.S.–Mexico relationship and knowledge that it is at a crucial moment.” She said her resignation will be effective May 5. Jacobson, who was appointed by President Obama and assumed her post in 2016, did not give a reason for her resignation. But according to former U.S. and Mexican diplomats, the strain in the countries’ relations made her job particularly difficult.



Newsline: Malfunctioning Surveillance Gear, Not Sonic Weapons, Could Explain Cuba Embassy ‘Attack’

Bizarre reports of US diplomatic staff in Cuba suffering from symptoms resembling brain trauma, allegedly after hearing unsettling sounds resembling scraping metal or insects buzzing, have continued to baffle medical researchers. But a team from the University of Michigan may have come up with a credible explanation for the incident, per the Miami Herald. Kevin Fu and other members of the university’s Security and Privacy Research Group say that they believe that the sounds could have been caused by improperly placed Cuban spy gear. According to their research, if two inaudible ultrasound surveillance devices were placed too closely together, the resulting interference could become audible—meaning the Cubans may have actually just screwed up rather than intentionally harmed the Americans, the Herald wrote: Fu and his team used recordings of the sound obtained by The Associated Press and applied reverse-engineering to replicate what was heard by diplomats. By combining various ultrasound signals, they discovered that the resulting distortion produced an audible sound similar to what was heard in the original recording. “When a second inaudible ultrasonic source interfered with the primary inaudible ultrasonic source, intermodulation distortion created audible byproducts that share spectral characteristics with audio from the AP news,” the university report said.