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Newsline: Australia rules out moving its Israel embassy to Jerusalem

Australia will not be following Donald Trump’s lead and moving its embassy to Jerusalem, Julie Bishop has said, despite strong support from the party’s base. The Liberal Party’s youth arm had called on the government to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s legislative capital, and to suspend all aid to Palestine “until it terminates its ‘Martyr’s fund”. The motion, which is non-binding, was carried in a vote 43 to 31, but the foreign minister said there was no chance the government would adopt it as policy. There are 110 council delegates who have voting rights at the national council. “While I understand the sentiment behind this resolution, the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem,” Bishop said. “Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades and we are doing all we can do to ensure that any support we give to the Palestinian Authority is only used for purposes that we determine.”



Newsline: Diplomat says China shunned Australia’s minister

China rejected a request for a senior bilateral meeting during a recent visit by Australia’s trade minister, a high-ranking diplomat said on Thursday, as relations between the two major trading partners fray. Frances Adamson, secretary of Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), told a parliamentary committee that Trade Minister Steven Ciobo met with the mayor of Shanghai during his visit in mid-May, after an attempt to meet with his ministerial counterpart was rebuffed. “We indicated to the Chinese that a meeting with Mr Ciobo’s counterpart would have been welcomed,” Adamson said on Thursday during a scheduled parliamentary briefing. “He would have been willing to travel to Beijing for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart if that had been possible.” Relations between the two trading partners have been severely tested just two years into a free trade pact amid moves by Australia to limit foreign influence, spurring legislation banning foreign political donations.


Newsline: There is still no US Ambassador to Australia

Last week’s sudden announcement that the man assigned as the next United States ambassador to Australia will instead be posted to South Korea has generated concern among some commentators. US President Donald Trump nominated Admiral Harry Harris as ambassador to Canberra in February. Former Ambassador John Berry left his post in September 2016, meaning it has been vacant for 19 months. Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer has described the delay in appointing a new ambassador as an “insult and with impact”, while former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has claimed that “Australia, from President Trump’s perspective, is a second-class ally”. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, though, has said he can “well understand” the decision to reallocate Harris to South Korea, given the Admiral’s expertise.


Newsline: Russian ambassador lashes out at Australian media’s ‘disgraceful’ coverage

Russia’s ambassador has called Australia’s media “disgraceful” for its coverage of the expulsion of two Russian diplomats accused of being spies in Canberra over the Skripal poisoning in the UK. Grigory Logvinov spent almost an hour conducting a free-wheeling media conference in Canberra last week, denying Russia was involved with the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. In a statement released on Tuesday, Logvinov lashed out at the reporters, who he said had humiliated themselves by asking about the poisoning. “There is no real evidence of the Russian involvement in poisoning of the Skripals,” Logvinov said in the statement. “It was verified once again during the press conference, when the journalists put forward just repetitions of the unfounded accusations and personal attacks (first of all, humiliating for themselves) against all my reasonable arguments.”


Newsline: Russian ambassador to Australia says US surveillance equipment gave Washington embassy staff cancer

Russia’s embassy in Washington has thanked the Russian ambassador to Australia for reminding them they work in “dangerous conditions” after he claimed staff were getting cancer from American surveillance equipment. But the United States State Department has fired back, stating Moscow should not play the victim. In an extraordinary press conference this week, ambassador Grigory Logvinov fielded questions from Australian journalists for more than an hour as he downplayed his country’s role in the attempted assassination of a former double agent and his daughter in England. Amid Mr Logvinov’s claims — which included whether Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were actually poisoned — he alleged Russians were victims, not of a nerve agent, but of radiation coming from equipment surrounding their embassy in Washington.


Newsline: Russia’s ambassador denies Kremlin has spies in Australia

Russia’s ambassador to Australia has categorically denied the Kremlin has placed spies in its Australian embassies, six days before two of its diplomats will be ejected at the order of the prime minister. Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, met with the ambassador, Grigory Logvinov, on Wednesday to condemn Russia for its alleged chemical weapons attack on UK soil that left a former spy and his daughter in a critical condition. Earlier in the day, in a long and at times rambling press conference that touched on Russian casualties during the first and second world wars, ongoing issues with Nato, and Le Carré-esque hints of Australian intelligence agents interfering with Russian embassy staff, Logvinov said it was laughable to suggest that Russian spies were operating in Australia. Speaking from Russia’s embassy in Canberra, he said if he agreed the diplomats being expelled from Australia were spies, it “admits that all other Russian embassies are half-spy embassies”. “Embassies are consisting of diplomats,” Logvinov said. “Some embassies, well, our embassy here, is quite small. It’s average, actually. We have embassies that are bigger in the US – well, [the US embassy] was big, now it is much smaller.” Logvinov would not say what the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, thought of the Turnbull government’s decision to expel two officials, nor if it would lead to a permanent breach between the countries.


Newsline: Russia slams Australia for expelling 2 diplomats

Russia’s Embassy in Canberra has accused Australia of blindly following Britain by deciding to expel two Russian diplomats. Australia’s government said expulsion of two ‘undeclared intelligence officers’ reflects the ‘shocking nature of the attack’.