Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Asia

Newsline: Chinese embassy tells Canada to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs

China’s embassy in Ottawa warned Canada to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs a day after the country issued a joint statement with the European Union in defense of the “fundamental right of assembly” for Hong Kong citizens. Hundreds of thousands of anti-government protesters rallied peacefully in Hong Kong on Sunday in the 11th week of what have been often violent demonstrations in the Asian financial hub. On the eve of Sunday’s rally, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said: “Fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly … must continue to be upheld.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-canada-hongkong/chinese-embassy-tells-canada-to-stop-meddling-in-hong-kong-affairs-idUSKCN1V80OO) The Canada-EU statement also expressed concerns about the escalation of violence and encouraged engagement by all sides to ease tensions.

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Newsline: Germany cannot shut down North Korean Embassy youth hostel

The German government wants to stop a hostel manager from paying rent to the North Korean Embassy. But despite a UN resolution forbidding rent payments, the City Hostel Berlin is still open for business. The German government still cannot find a way to shut down the City Hostel in the center of Berlin, even though the building is leased from the North Korean Embassy next door. According to a report earlier this week by Süddeutsche Zeitung, along with public broadcasters NDR and WDR, the embassy appears to be stalling attempts to cancel the lease contract with the German management company EGI GmbH, by failing to pay the necessary court fees. (https://www.dw.com/en/germany-cannot-shut-down-north-korean-embassy-youth-hostel/a-50057740) Newly uncovered information shows that the embassy, under pressure from the German Foreign Ministry, cancelled the contract with EGI in February 2018 and then filed an eviction notice at Berlin’s state court. But it then failed to provide the required advance on the court fees, which means that the large hostel, with some 435 beds in around 100 rooms, remains open for tourists hoping to see the German capital on a budget. The ministry’s pressure came in the wake of a United Nations resolution in November 2016, which banned member states from allowing North Korea from using embassy property for anything other than diplomatic activities.

Newsline: South Korea’s new U.S. ambassador has called Trump “treacherous”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday appointed a new ambassador to the U.S. who has described Donald Trump as “treacherous,” only a month after Britain’s envoy to Washington had to step down over his criticisms of the U.S. president. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/south-koreas-new-u-s-ambassador-has-called-trump-treacherous/) In the early 2000s, Lee Soo-hyuck, a career diplomat before becoming a ruling party lawmaker, was Seoul’s chief negotiator in the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. Now he will be responsible for guiding the relationship between Seoul and Washington, which have not always seen eye-to-eye over the nuclear-armed North or their own ties.

Newsline: Czech Ambassador to Iran Resigns Amid Visa Fraud Allegations

The ambassador of the Czech Republic in Iran Svatopluk Čumba, has resigned this week amidst allegations that he sold 400 short-stay visas to Iranian businesspersons that were recommended by the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce. The General Inspection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had previously examined the Czech embassy in Tehran for possible involvement with visa trade with hundreds of Iranians. According to their report, Jan Kavan and Zdeněk Zbytek from the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce issued recommendations to the visa beneficiaries, who were soon granted with Schengen visas by the Czech embassy in Tehran, with the ambassador pushing the consular service of the embassy to process their applications with priority. “True, I helped mediate visas for Iranian entrepreneurs,” Čumba confirmed, denying that he received any money for this and giving no more comments on the issue. (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/czech-ambassador-to-iran-resigns-amid-allegations-he-sold-schengen-visas-to-iranian-businesspersons/) According to the Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček, there is no evidence of visa bargaining in the Czech embassy in Tehran. “We have no direct evidence of any trade [with Schengen visas], the audit report focused primarily on those visa processes, we found some failure and we took appropriate steps in this direction,” minister Petříček said. On the other hand, the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current chair of the Czech-Slovak-Iranian Chamber of Commerce Jan Kavan, denies that the embassy has committed any wrongdoing in issuing these visas. Still, in an interview for irozhlas.cz, he admits that the Chamber did send out 400 visa recommendations for Iranian entrepreneurs.

Newsline: Pakistan downgrades ties with India

Pakistan has announced plans to expel India’s top diplomat and suspend trade with its neighbour, deepening a row between the countries over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Indian-administered Kashmir has been on lockdown since the Indian government decided on Monday to strip the region of its special constitutional status. Phone networks and the internet have been cut off since Sunday evening. Pakistan is expelling India’s high commissioner (the equivalent of an ambassador) from Islamabad. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s newly-appointed envoy, Moin-ul-Haq, was yet to start his role but now will not move to Delhi. Prime Minister Imran Khan has “directed that all diplomatic channels be activated to expose [the] brutal Indian racist regime, design and human rights violations”, a Pakistani government statement said. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-49267912) He also directed the armed forces to remain vigilant.

Newsline: Pakistan says will expel Indian ambassador as Kashmir dispute grows

Pakistan said on Wednesday it would expel India’s ambassador and suspend bilateral trade with its arch-rival after New Delhi stripped its portion of the contested Kashmir region of special status. Neighbors China and Pakistan, which both claim parts of the region, have voiced fierce opposition to India’s move dropping a constitutional provision that had allowed the country’s only Muslim-majority state to make its own laws. Moin-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s newly-appointed ambassador to India, had yet to take up his post but will now not move to New Delhi, while Indian Ambassador Ajay Bisaria will be expelled, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a telephone interview with Pakistani TV channel ARY News. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-kashmir-pakistan/pakistan-says-will-expel-indian-ambassador-as-kashmir-dispute-grows-idUSKCN1UX1KT?il=0) “It is very obvious that our ambassador wouldn’t be in Delhi, and obviously the man who is here will also leave,” Qureshi said.

Newsline: Kyrgyz FM Summons Belarusian Ambassador

Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the Belarusian ambassador to Bishkek to give explanations about a meeting between President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and fugitive former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev. The ministry said on August 7 that Ambassador Syarhey Ivanou was handed a note of protest. “The Kyrgyz side views it as absolutely unacceptable that during the meeting [between Lukashenka and Bakiev] the Kyrgyz Republic’s national symbols were used…which completely contradicts principles of friendship and cooperation between the two nations.” (https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyz-fm-summons-belarusian-ambassador-over-lukashenka-bakiev-meeting/30097537.html) Lukashenka’s official website said on August 6 that the Belarusian leader met with Bakiev in his office in Minsk on the occasion of the former Kyrgyz president’s 70th birthday, which he had marked several days earlier. Bakiev and some of his family members and associates have been residing in Belarus since April 2010 after he was toppled by violent anti-government protests.