Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Australia

Newsline: US embassy dragged into Canberra dog attack investigation

A dog living on a property owned by the US embassy has been linked to three separate attacks in the past 18 months, but investigations have been hampered by diplomatic considerations. No action has yet been taken over the attacks, which included one on a four-year old girl, two attacks on adult neighbours of the Stirling property, and one on another dog. The ACT’s domestic animal service confirmed it had been called to the latest attack on October 25, but said it was “currently liaising with the Australian Federal Police diplomatic liaison unit”. In that incident, Stirling woman Livia Auer was bitten on her legs and backside when two German shepherds escaped their yard at a home owned by the embassy and occupied by a diplomat. Less than an hour earlier, one of the dogs had attacked a child and her mother playing in the front yard of their home.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/complaints-of-three-attacks-by-dog-living-on-us-embassy-property-20171113-gzko56.html

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Newsline: Australian diplomat falls to his death in New York City

A young Australian diplomat fell to his death from a New York City building, police said, reportedly as he played a trust game on a ledge. Julian Simpson, 30, was on the seventh floor of a Lower East Side building with his wife and others when he fell, landing on a second-floor terrace, New York City police said. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital. There’s no apparent criminality, police said. Simpson and others then went to a seventh-floor apartment terrace, “and Simpson offered to prove he was trustworthy by playing a trust game, going to a ledge and leaning back,” the AP reported. Simpson allegedly reached for another person’s hand, but he slipped and fell, authorities said, according to the AP. Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said in a statement today, “I extend my condolences to the family and loved ones of Julian Simpson,” saying his death occurred “in tragic circumstances in New York.”

http://abcnews.go.com/US/australian-diplomat-falls-death-york-city/story?id=51194098

Newsline: Venezuelan skier avoids jail after assaulting embassy landlord in Canberra

A top Venezuelan skier and world-record holder who punched the landlord of his home country’s embassy in Canberra has been handed a good behaviour order over the assault. The dispute arose due to growing tensions between embassy staff and the building’s landlord, who chose to blockade entrances to the embassy with vehicles as the spat intensified. During the blockade, Cesar Baena, 30, got into an altercation with the landlord. Baena, a champion skier, said he had struck out after being taunted, and the night before the incident the wife of the landlord had driven past and said “bad words” to him. He also told the court he had felt the man had shown disrespect for his country. In court today, Baena told the court if he had a conviction against his name his international skiing career would be over, as it would limit his ability to travel.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-13/top-venezuelan-skier-avoids-conviction-after-assault/9048198

Newsline: Still No US Ambassador to Australia After One Year

Following the late 2016 resignation of ambassador John Berry, appointed by US President Barack Obama and “the highest-ranking openly gay official to serve in the executive branch in any US administration,” according to many sources, Canberra has not had an official representative from Washington, according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). Although the matter is viewed by government officials as a “technicality,” many in Australia are wondering if the Trump White House is not prioritizing China and other southeast Asian nations over its southern ally.

https://sputniknews.com/asia/201710011057840959-no-us-ambassador-to-canberra/

Newsline: Canberra snubs CIA over Pyongyang embassy

It is not often that the CIA makes a request of its close friend and ally Australia and gets knocked back, but it has happened twice, in 2013 and 2014, and it related to the most sensitive security issue of our time, North Korea. In early 2014, only a few months after the Coalition government led by Tony Abbott had been elected, the US State Department, at the urging of the CIA, made a strong suggestion to Canberra that it consider opening a resident embassy in North Korea. At first, Abbott was inclined to agree. He and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had several discussions about it, although the matter never reached cabinet. Canberra sounded out several friendly governments that had embassies in North Korea to ascertain what value they got from their presence in the Hermit Kingdom and was generally told pretty dismal stories of ambassadors being kept away from meaningful North Korean decision-makers and being subject to relentless, 24/7 surveillance. Australia and North Korea have diplomatic relations, but do not have resident embassies in each others’ countries. At about the time of the American request, the North Koreans had been making life difficult for Australia’s ambassador to Seoul whenever he wanted to go to North Korea on an official trip. The other problem with the Americans’ proposal from Canberra’s point of view was that North Korea would certainly agree to hosting an Australian ­embassy in Pyongyang only if it were allowed to reopen a resident ­embassy in Canberra. North Korean embassies around the world are notorious for using the privileged diplomatic communications and transport rights of embassies to facilitate crime and illegal money-making schemes for their regime. In 2003, at a time when North Korea did have an embassy in Canberra, a North Korean ship, the Pong Su, delivered a shipment of heroin to Australia. The ship, and the heroin, were seized by Australian authorities. Although Canberra co-operates intensely with Washington on North Korea, the decision, on balance, was not to proceed with a new embassy in Pyongyang.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/canberra-tells-cia-thanks-but-no-thanks-over-pyongyang-embassy/news-story/8b3da4a04a161f80be11aaf50a65fbb6

Newsline: Canberra man allegedly broke into Russian embassy to steal bike

A Canberra man has been remanded in custody after allegedly breaking into the grounds of the Russian embassy in an attempt to steal a BMX bike. Luke Gray, 26, of Griffith was arrested about 6:00am on Saturday with bolt cutters and a screwdriver in his bag. Prosecutors said he entered the secure embassy grounds and tried to steal a child’s BMX bike. He has been charged with burglary, attempted theft, and being equipped with articles for intent to commit a theft. In the ACT Magistrates Court prosecutors said Gray was high on methamphetamine at the time of the break-in. Gray was crying and agitated during his brief appearance, and said he could not remember making his way to the embassy. He was remanded in custody and will appear again in court on Tuesday.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-05/man-allegedly-broke-into-russian-embassy-to-steal-bmx-bike/8777568

Newsline: Dodgy guns compromise security of Australian embassy in Afghanistan

A faulty shipment of assault rifles compromised security at the Australian embassy in Afghanistan and prompted a change of the guards at checkpoints, it has emerged. Some of the weapons exploded during test firing and others were found to be inoperable. Checkpoint, embassy and diplomatic residence guards, generally Nepalese Gurkha and locally employed staff, were issued locally purchased AK-47s — some of which were 60 years old — which were found to have malfunctions, including bent barrels, a source has told the Herald Sun. Australian mobile teams, armed with M4 assault rifles and Glock pistols, were retasked from close personal protection and transport missions to manning checkpoints and the residences of diplomatic staff until the issue was addressed earlier this month. “The embassy are fully aware of the incident, it has gone very high-level and there is an investigation under way. DFAT are fully aware as is the ambassador,” the source, familiar with the problems, said. “They were without proper protection for up to two days until the mobile teams were used to cover for them. This lasted about 24 to 48 hours.” It is understood that of the 71 AK-47s in a shipment purchased for approximately $130,000, about 63 were found to have defects and several “exploded” during fire range testing by an armourer.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/dodgy-guns-compromise-security-australian-embassy-in-afghanistan/news-story/a4ee475a5428caf1a3ba2646f4dd2ea6