Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Europe

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.

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Newsline: UK charges 55-year-old man over bomb hoax at Polish consulate

British police said prosecutors had charged a 55-year-old man with making a bomb hoax at Poland’s consulate in the northern English city of Manchester. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-poland-hoax/uk-charges-55-year-old-man-over-bomb-hoax-at-polish-consulate-idUSKCN1UZ1V0) Bogdan Benduski, who gave no fixed address, would appear before magistrates in Manchester at a future date, the city’s police force said in a statement. Local media reported that Poland’s consulate in Manchester was temporarily evacuated after a security threat.

Newsline: South Sudan backtracks on embassy shutdowns, set to reopen 4

South Sudan has reversed a decision to close down some of its embassies across the world as the country’s president Salva Kiir on Friday ordered the reopening of four diplomatic missions that were closed some months ago. Kiir quashed a previous directive for the closure of some diplomatic missions and ordered the reopening of three embassies in Europe and one in Asia, information minister Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting. “The president informed the cabinet that he has set aside the order that was made for the closure of some embassies,” Makuie said. (http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-08/17/c_138314799.htm) “Those embassies which were closed… another order has been issued reinstating them. These embassies are of Norway, France, Italy and Kuwait… now these embassies will continue to operate,” he added. South Sudan’s foreign ministry announced in May that it was reviewing the status of its 39 embassies and consulates across the world and close some in a bid to reduce operational costs.

Newsline: Russia declares Ukrainian diplomat persona non grata

Moscow has declared an employee of Ukraine’s Consulate General in St. Petersburg persona non grata in response to similar actions taken by Kyiv against a Russian diplomat, Russian news agency TASS has reported, quoting the Russian Foreign Ministry. “In response to a similar unfriendly and unmotivated move by Kyiv, the Russian side was forced to declare an employee of the Consulate General of Ukraine in St. Petersburg persona non grata on a reciprocal basis,” the ministry said. (https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-society/2759792-russia-declares-ukrainian-diplomat-persona-non-grata.html) On August 13, Ukraine’s SBU Security Service said it had exposed in Lviv region a local resident who was collecting intelligence for the Russian special services and passed it to a Russian intelligence officer who “worked” under the diplomatic cover of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Lviv. The SBU said that “for activities incompatible with the status of a consular officer, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry declared a spy diplomat persona non grata.” “He has already left the territory of Ukraine,” the SBU said.

Newsline: Trump mulling North Korea envoy to be next ambassador to Moscow

The White House is discussing whether to replace Jon Huntsman, the outgoing US ambassador to Moscow, with Steve Biegun, the special representative for North Korea, two administration officials tell CNN. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/08/13/politics/us-ambassador-moscow-steve-biegun/index.html) Huntsman is set to step down in October after two years, the State Department announced last week, after reports that the former diplomat was moving back to Utah, perhaps to run for governor, a role he held from 2005 to 2009. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that President Donald Trump told President Vladimir Putin during a phone call last month that a new ambassador to Russia would be nominated “shortly.” The new ambassador will be taking up residence in Moscow at an especially challenging time, as US-Russia relations continue to be strained by Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, its annexation of Crimea and disruptive activities in eastern Ukraine. Concerns are also growing about a potential nuclear arms race, as both world powers have now abandoned nonproliferation treaties that kept their arsenals in check. Biegun is seen as a fit for the challenging diplomatic post because of his extensive experience on Russia and in Washington. He served on the National Security Council as its executive secretary under President George W. Bush and spent 14 years working as a congressional aide in both the House and the Senate.

Newsline: London climate change protesters daub Brazilian embassy blood red

Climate-change protesters threw red paint at the Brazilian embassy in London on Tuesday to demonstrate against damage to the Amazon rainforest and what they described as violence against indigenous tribes living there. Police arrested six activists from the Extinction Rebellion group after they glued themselves to the embassy windows and climbed onto a glass awning above the entrance. The protesters had splattered red paint and sprayed red handprints over the facade, along with slogans such as “No More Indigenous Blood” and “For The Wild”. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-climatechange-protests/london-climate-change-protesters-daub-brazilian-embassy-blood-red-idUSKCN1V30LC) Extinction Rebellion, which disrupted traffic in central London for several weeks earlier this year, said Tuesday’s protest aimed to challenge the Brazilian government over “state-sanctioned human rights abuses and ecocide”. Brazil contains about 60 percent of the Amazon rainforest, a bulwark against global warming thanks to the vast amounts of carbon dioxide it soaks up and recycles into oxygen.

Newsline: Belgium puts embassy in the US up for sale

The building housing the Belgian Embassy in the United States has been put on the market, after the outgoing head of foreign affairs said the property was too large and was not being fully used. The decision to move diplomatic operations from the property was taken in 2016 by Didier Reynders, who is set to step down from his current position as Minister of Foreign Affairs. At the time, Reynders explained his decision by the fact that the current building, located near other international embassies like that of Finland and China, was too big and not being fully used, , according to HLN. The transaction would see Belgium’s diplomatic delegation in the U.S. move to two apartment blocks in as-of-yet undisclosed locations in Washington D.C.. According to the outlet, the asking price is for the building is currently of 25 million dollars, or around 22.3 million euros. (https://www.brusselstimes.com/belgium/63639/belgium-puts-embassy-in-the-us-up-for-sale/) The decision reportedly ruffled some feathers at the foreign ministry, with some raising concerns that selling off the building would harm Belgium’s image abroad, and others saying that maintenance costs for the apartments were actually higher.