Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Europe

Newsline: German Embassy diplomat confirmed killed in Beirut blast

The official’s death is the first confirmed Germany fatality following Tuesday’s explosion. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas confirmed that she was killed in her home and said the foreign ministry was in ‘deep mourning.’ A German diplomat was killed in Tuesday’s massive explosion in Beirut, marking the first death of a German citizen due to the blast. “Our worst fears have been confirmed,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement. “A member of our embassy in Beirut has been killed in the aftermath of the explosion in her home. All employees of the Federal Foreign Office are in deep grieving for their colleague.” (https://www.dw.com/en/german-embassy-diplomat-confirmed-killed-in-beirut-blast/a-54464915) “I would like to thank everyone who, like our late colleague, takes great personal risks around the world every day in serving our country,” added Maas.

Newsline: Wife of Dutch ambassador seriously injured in Beirut blast

he wife of the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon was seriously injured by a huge blast that took place in Beirut’s port on Tuesday, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-security-blast-netherlands/wife-of-dutch-ambassador-seriously-injured-in-beirut-blast-ministry-idUSKCN2511FJ) A spokesman said she had been admitted to hospital. He said the blast had caused extensive damage to the Dutch embassy, also wounding four other people connected to it.

Newsline: Israel approves raft of new envoys, including controversial ambassador to UK

Israel has confirmed half a dozen new ambassadors and consul-generals, including envoys to countries that will have a large impact on the Israeli government’s policies, security and development programmes. Among the appointments is Tzipi Hotovely, a right-wing religious nationalist, who is being made ambassador to the United Kingdom after a stint at the settlement affairs ministry. (https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-approves-raft-new-envoys-including-controversial-ambassador-uk) Hotovely, a rising power in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is known for her Jewish supremacist views and disregard for the two-state solution. She is openly Islamophobic and supports the full annexation of the occupied West Bank. Her appointment comes as the British and Israeli governments are at odds over Israel’s now delayed plans to annex parts of the West Bank. When news she would be arriving in London broke last month, a petition was set up asking the UK’s Foreign Office to reject her nomination. It has now been signed by 1,800 members of Britain’s Jewish community.

Newsline: Russian foreign ministry complains to UK, US and Canadian embassies for flying the rainbow flag

The foreign ministry in Russia made a formal complaint to the UK, US and Canadian embassies in Moscow for flying the rainbow LGBT+ Pride flag during Pride Month. Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” law bans any positive depiction of LGBT+ people. Anyone found guilty of sharing such information with minors can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison. A diplomatic source told TASS that the UK embassy in Moscow had received a protest note from the Russian foreign ministry for displaying the LGBT+ Pride flag, which it raised towards the end of June. (https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/07/29/russia-pride-flag-foreign-ministry-complaint-uk-us-canadian-embassy-rainbow-lgbt/) State Duma lawmaker Vasily Piskarev confirmed that protest notes had also been sent to the Canadian and US embassies in Moscow, which also displayed rainbow LGBT+ Pride flags.

Newsline: U.K. Cuts Immunity for Some U.S. Diplomats’ Families After Fatal Crash

An immunity waiver at a military base has been widened to cover employees’ families, after a diplomatic tug of war over the death of a British teenager. Britain and the United States have agreed to end a legal loophole that allowed an American woman to flee Britain after she was involved in a car accident that killed a teenager, the British authorities said, almost a year after the crash started a diplomatic tug of war between the two countries and sparked widespread outrage in Britain. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/world/europe/diplomatic-immunity-harry-dunn.html) The woman, Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat, fled Britain under diplomatic immunity weeks after her car collided with the motorcycle of Harry Dunn, 19, near Royal Air Force Croughton, a military base operated by the U.S. Air Force in central England. For nearly a year, Mr. Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, have campaigned to have Ms. Sacoolas prosecuted in Britain, going to the White House in October, where President Trump welcomed them and tried to arrange a meeting with Ms. Sacoolas, who he said was waiting in a room nearby. Mr. Dunn’s parents refused to meet her. In January, the United States turned down an extradition request for Ms. Sacoolas, a decision that the British government called “a denial of justice.” The change in the law does not apply to her case, but only to future incidents.

Newsline: Top US diplomat Pompeo visits Denmark after diplomatic tussle over Greenland

A year after the U.S. and Denmark butted heads over President Donald Trump’s offer to buy Greenland, his secretary of state is visiting the Nordic country on Wednesday, with Arctic issues at the top of the agenda. He is then expected to hold talks with his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod at noon, when they will be joined by foreign affairs representatives for Greenland and the Faroe Islands, also a Danish autonomous territory. In Kofod’s words, Denmark considers the U.S. its “absolutely closest ally” and has contributed troops to NATO missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. But relations hit some turbulence in August 2019 when Trump floated the idea of the U.S. buying Greenland, an Arctic territory covering over 2 million square kilometers. Frederiksen called the proposal “absurd,” leading Trump to cancel a planned visit to Copenhagen over the “nasty” tone of the response. While the offer was the subject of some ridicule, analysts say it is also indicative of the U.S.’ renewed strategic interest in the Arctic region, which had subsided somewhat after the end of the Cold War. A few phone calls between the countries have since eased the tensions, and Greenland officials say they want to put the affair behind them. “What we said in the past and what we do today are two different things. And what matters is what we do and what we say today,” Greenland foreign affairs representative Steen Lynge told reporters Tuesday. (https://www.dailysabah.com/world/americas/top-us-diplomat-pompeo-visits-denmark-after-diplomatic-tussle-over-greenland) The U.S. reopened a consulate in Greenland’s capital Nuuk last month, with approval from Copenhagen, and provided a $12.1 million aid package in April. Greenland is also home to another strategic American asset, the Thule Air Base, which is the U.S. Air Force’s northernmost base.

Newsline: Russian Ambassador to UK says Moscow not interested in European states falling apart

Russia is not interested in disintegration of any European country, including in Scotland’s possible secession from the United Kingdom, Russian Ambassador to UK Anrei Kelin said in an interview with Sky News. Commenting on the report, published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday, Kelin said the document mentions Russia’s alleged attempt to meddle with the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, but “don’t provide any facts.” (https://tass.com/politics/1181077) “It does not make any sense to do this kind of operation. The issue of Scottish independence belongs to the people of Scotland and to the United Kingdom. Independence of any country – we have dealt with these processes, we know how difficult they are and we are not favourable towards disintegration processes in Europe,” reads the full transcript of the interview, posted on the embassy’s website. The Russian diplomat added that it would be hard for Scotland, which has a population of about 5.5 million people, to function as a small independent state. As an example, he cited the problem of depopulation in Baltic states, in particular Lithuania which has already lost 20% of its population. “We do not wish that Scotland leaves the United Kingdom. It is not in our interest at all,” Kelin added. The report published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday notes that Russian-UK relations cannot be improved under the current Russian leadership. The report also claims that Moscow had tried to interfere in the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence.

Newsline: U.S. ambassador says EU criticism of Poland ‘overblown’

The U.S. ambassador to Poland said the European Union’s criticism of Poland’s adherence to democracy is “overblown”, as Warsaw faces cuts to EU budget funds over its judiciary reforms. Since coming to power in 2015, Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has faced criticism from the EU over its overhaul of its judiciary system, with Brussels accusing Poland of violating EU laws. As its relationship with the EU has faltered, PiS has focused on building strong ties with the United States, especially since President Donald Trump came to power in 2016. “If you’re asking me…do I think that a lot of the attacks on Poland about democratic values is overblown, my answer is yes, I do,” U.S. ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher told Reuters in an interview. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-usa/u-s-ambassador-says-eu-criticism-of-poland-overblown-idUSKCN24J0G5) The EU is struggling to respond to what many in western Europe see as creeping authoritarianism in the eastern wing of the bloc, especially Poland, Hungary and Romania.

Newsline: Russia’s UK ambassador rejects coronavirus vaccine hacking allegations

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has rejected allegations that his country’s intelligence services tried to steal coronavirus vaccine research. “I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” Andrei Kelin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. On Thursday, UK security services said hackers targeting vaccine developers “almost certainly” operated as “part of Russian intelligence services”. Mr Kelin also rejected suggestions that Russia had interfered in UK politics. Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russians almost certainly sought to interfere in the 2019 UK election through illicitly-acquired documents. The papers, which emerged online, detailed UK-US trade discussions and were used by Labour in its election campaign. “I do not see any point in using this subject as a matter of interference,” Mr Kelin said. “We do not interfere at all. We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be [the] Conservative Party or Labour’s party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53458122) The interview comes days before a report into allegations of wider Russian interference into UK democracy is due to be published by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Newsline: Mystery jogger in missing UK diplomat search

Police are hoping to identify a jogger captured in dash-cam footage shortly after a UK diplomat went missing. Richard Morris, 52, was last seen running in Alton, Hampshire, on 6 May at 10:50 BST. The unknown man is seen jogging on London Road at the junction with Lower Neatham Mill Lane, Alton, towards Binstead, at about 12:30 BST. Hampshire Constabulary said identifying the person in the footage would assist its investigation. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-53350560) Mr Morris was a father of three and UK ambassador to Nepal for four years until 2019. He was recently appointed British High Commissioner to Fiji.