Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Man arrested for crashing his car into U.S. embassy in Seoul

A South Korean man was arrested for crashing his sedan into the front gate of the U.S. Embassy in central Seoul, police said. No one was hurt in the incident. Officials at the Jongno Police Station said the 40-year-old man, identified only by his surname, Park, suddenly turned his car toward the embassy gate and rammed into it Tuesday. (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/06/26/Man-arrested-for-crashing-his-car-into-US-embassy-in-Seoul/2901561531856/) Some 20 cans of butane gas were found in the car. Investigators are trying to find out about his motive for the crash. They plan to seek a warrant on June 26 to formally detain him.

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Newsline: Iran’s U.N. ambassador rules out talks with US

Iran’s U.N. ambassador warned on June 24 that the situation in the Persian Gulf is “very dangerous” and called talks with the U.S. impossible in the face of escalating sanctions and intimidation, while the U.S. envoy said the Trump administration’s aim is to get Tehran back to negotiations. Recent attacks on tankers and the downing of a U.S. drone played out in comments before and after a closed U.N. Security Council meeting called by the United States that provided sharply different views of the current situation. It took place hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian military figures with financial sanctions. (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/irans-un-ambassador-rules-out-talks-with-trump-administration-2019-06-24) Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi called the new sanctions another indication of “U.S. hostility” toward the Iranian people. He said the Trump administration should de-escalate tensions by stopping “its military adventurism” in the region, withdrawing its “naval armada” and moving away from “economic warfare against the Iranian people.” Acting U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen outlined the U.S. case for blaming Iran for tanker attacks May 12 and June 13 and for shooting down a $100 million U.S. drone in international airspace June 20. Iran denies it attacked the tankers and says the drone was in its airspace.

Newsline: Vehicle packed with gas canisters crashes into US embassy in Seoul

A CAR filled with explosive gas has smashed into the US Embassy in Seoul just days before Donald Trump is due to visit. The motor reportedly made a sudden turn before smashing into the compound’s gates in the South Korean capital. A 40-year-old man, named locally as Park Mo, believed to be the driver, was detained following the incident which took place at around 6pm local time. (https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/9369110/seoul-car-bomb-gas-canisters-crash-us-embassy-trump-visit-south-korea/) Police said the rental car suddenly turned right and slammed into the gates of the Embassy. After examining the car a box containing 30 butane canisters was found in the boot. South Korean police are now expected to consult with the US Embassy about strengthening the site’s security. They did not say whether or not the incident was being treated as an attempted attack.

Newsline: Iran Summons Swiss, UAE Envoys Over U.S. Drone Incident

Iran has summoned the United Arab Emirates’ top envoy to Tehran to protest the neighboring Arab nation’s allowing the U.S. to use a base there to launch a drone that Iran says entered its airspace. The June 22 report by the official IRNA news agency said Iran issued a “strong protest” to the UAE diplomat, saying Iran does not tolerate the facilitation of foreign forces that violate its territory. The U.S. says its RQ-4A Global Hawk was shot down on June 20 over international waters, not inside Iranian airspace. (https://time.com/5612728/iran-uae-envoy-drone-incident/) On June 21, Iran summoned Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner to hear Iran’s protest over the alleged violation. Switzerland looks after U.S. interests in Iran. Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations since 1979. Iran says the U.S. drone was a “very dangerous provocation.”

Newsline: Iran says hunger strike making embassy work in London impossible

The hunger strike by Richard Ratcliffe outside the Iranian embassy in London is making work there impossible and putting pressure on diplomatic staff, Iran’s ambassador to the UK has said. Ratcliffe, the husband of the imprisoned Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, began the protest last weekend and has been visited by a growing number of family members, supporters and politicians, including SNP MPs and Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson. Tired but in good spirits and surrounded by flowers and signs, Ratcliffe said on June 20 he would continue at least until the weekend, when he would speak to his wife about the steps she wished him to take next. He said it had been the decision of the Iranians to erect two large corrugated iron barriers in front of the entrance to the embassy opposite Hyde Park. The ambassador, Hamid Baeidinejad, said they were designed to shield staff from being filmed. (https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/jun/20/richard-ratcliffe-hunger-strike-making-embassy-work-impossible-iran) In an apparent reprisal for the protest, some of the diplomatic protection provided for the British embassy in Tehran has been removed. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence for espionage and is on hunger strike in Tehran in protest at her conditions. Baeidinejad, at a briefing called in part to discuss the growing crisis in the Gulf, said of Ratcliffe: “He is now blocking the entrance of our embassy and the peace of mind of our staff is in complete despair.” He said the door of the embassy was blocked because of the action. “There are media cameras 18-19 hours a day focusing on the entrance of the embassy, so any person going in and leaving is filmed which is totally unacceptable,” he said, adding that all meetings were being cancelled as a result. Baeidinejad said he had raised with the Foreign Office his concern that Ratcliffe’s activities were in breach of article 22 of the Vienna convention, which protects the ordinary daily activities of the embassy.

Newsline: Muslim family dragged out of Belgian embassy in Beijing by Chinese police

A Muslim family was dragged out of the Belgian embassy in Beijing by Chinese police after Belgian officials allowed them to enter the building, it has emerged. A Belgian diplomat was expected to travel to China’s restive Xinjiang region on June 18 to try and confirm the whereabouts of the woman and her four children, who are members of the Uighur minority. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/06/18/muslim-family-dragged-belgian-embassy-beijing-chinese-police/) The woman’s husband, Adbulhamid Tursan, is a political refugee in Belgium. His wife, Horiyat Abula, and her four children travelled to Beijing at the end of May to complete missing paperwork for their family reunification visas. Mr Tursan said he had not heard from his family since May 31, a few days after they were extracted from the embassy after refusing to leave when they were told it would take at least three months for their visas to be approved. The embassy offered to escort the family back to their hotel, but they “refused to leave the embassy in a kind of sit-in”, a Belgian ministry spokesman said. In the end, Chinese police “escorted them away,”the spokesman said. Didier Reynders, Belgium’s foreign minister, said an embassy is not intended to “lodge people” applying for visas but added, “My only concern here is that we can reunite the family.”

Newsline: Iran protests to UK ambassador

Iran has protested to Britain’s ambassador in Tehran after being accused of involvement in attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied involvement, but Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Iran was “almost certainly” responsible. UK ambassador to Iran Rob Macaire said he asked for an “urgent meeting” with the Iranian Foreign Ministry. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48652290) Meanwhile, as tension grows in the region, a British-Iranian jailed in Tehran has begun a new hunger strike. Mother-of-one Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years in 2016 after being convicted of spying – which she denies. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, is joining her in refusing food and has set up a tent outside the Iranian embassy, where he plans to stay while his wife is on hunger strike, to protest against her “unfair imprisonment” and demand her unconditional release.