Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Austria

Newsline: US Top Diplomat’s Jet Breaks Down in Vienna During Iran Nuclear Talks

Decades-old U.S. sanctions have crippled Iran’s airline industry and the national carrier’s fleet of Boeing Co. jets. But it was U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry‘s Air Force plane that broke down in Vienna, where he was attending international negotiations aimed at curtailing Iran’s nuclear program. Fuel-tank problems forced Washington’s top diplomat to fly home on a commercial airliner. The grounding left Iranian negotiators in Vienna chuckling about the state of the U.S. government’s transportation. “So it is not just our planes,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told a reporter from the Al Monitor news site – quipping at what he said was the irony of the situation. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that Mr. Kerry “was quick to point out that if the hardest thing that happens in a given day is that you have to fly commercial—your life is pretty good.” That said, she pointed out that a commercial flight has a big drawback for Mr. Kerry: no secure phone. Mr. Kerry’s aircraft also broke down this summer in Hawaii on a trip back from Asia.


Newsline: Austrian court unfreezes ex-U.S. diplomat’s family assets

An Austrian court has unblocked assets owned by the wife of former U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, ruling that Vienna prosecutors overstepped their authority by having her bank accounts frozen, the couple and their lawyers said. Khalilzad – U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations under President George W. Bush – and his wife, author Cheryl Benard, had fought the seizure, which came to light after Profil magazine reported U.S. authorities were investigating him for suspected money laundering. Their lawyers have stressed that no charges have been filed against either of the pair. A court spokesman confirmed the Sept. 3 ruling. The U.S. Department of Justice has declined comment.


Newsline: Austria freezes assets of former US diplomat’s wife

Former top U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad and his wife are fighting the seizure of her Austrian bank accounts, lawyers for the couple said after a magazine reported U.S. authorities were investigating him for suspected money laundering. Profil magazine cited legal documents discovered in paper recycling bins outside a Vienna justice facility for its report this week that Khalilzad – U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations under President George W. Bush – was being investigated. It said Vienna prosecutors, acting on a U.S. request for legal assistance in 2013, got a court in February to freeze seven accounts owned by his wife, author Cheryl Benard, who is a citizen of both the United States and Austria. Profil said Khalilzad, 63, was suspected of collecting large sums from construction and oil companies in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates and sending $1.4 million dollars of this to Benard’s bank accounts in Vienna. Vienna prosecutors spokeswoman Nina Bussek confirmed an investigation was under way but declined to give more details. A joint statement issued by Vienna law firm Wolf Theiss and U.S. law firm Hogan Lovells said no charges had been brought against Khalilzad or Benard, who were contesting the seizure of the accounts. Khalilzad is now head of Khalilzad Associates, a Washington-based business consultancy. Benard, a novelist, is a researcher with the RAND Corporation and heads an advocacy group that supports cultural activism in areas marred by war.


Newsline: US Ambassador marries his partner in Austria

The US ambassador to the OSCE in Austria married his long-time partner in a ceremony at his residence in Vienna on the weekend. According to a report on the website Advocate.com, the US Ambassador to the OSCE in Austria, Dr. Daniel Baer married his long-time partner Brian Walsh in a simple ceremony on Saturday morning, surrounded by family and friends. Also present was Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. Dr Baer was sworn in as ambassador on September 10, 2013. Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour. Baer and Walsh obtained the license for their marriage in the US, but held the ceremony at their home in Vienna. While this type of marriage is not generally countenanced under Austrian law, technically the ambassador’s residence is US territory, therefore no Austrian regulations were likely to be breached – and in any case, the marriage license was not issued by the Austrian government. Registered same-sex partnerships have been legal in Austria since January 2010, however significant differences remain between such partnerships and full marriage. The latter institution enjoys privileges denied to same-sex couples, including rights of adoption and lack of access to reproductive services (IVF). Baer is the seventh openly LGBT person appointed by President Barack Obama and the first to a multilateral institution.


Newsline: Iranian Students Stage Protest Rally in Front of Austrian Embassy

Hundreds of Iranian university students staged a rally in front of the Austrian embassy in the capital to shout protest against EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton’s recent meeting with a number Iranian female dissidents in Tehran. “Down with the US”, “Ms. Ashton! Here Is No Ukraine” and “Students are Awake, and Hate the Arrogance” were among the slogans chanted by the protestors. Police forces had a strong presence in front of the Austrian embassy and cordoned off the embassy complex, preventing the protestors from approaching the building. In a statement issued at the end of their gathering, the Iranian students blasted the recent meeting held between Ashton and a number of female dissidents in Tehran, and called on the EU to avoid interference in Iran’s internal affairs.


Newsline: Iran warns Austrian embassy

Iran has warned the Austrian embassy in Tehran after it hosted a meeting between the EU foreign policy chief and Iranian human rights activists during her first visit to Iran over the weekend, the state news agency IRNA said. Ashton met several human rights activists including the mother of Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti at the embassy on Saturday, which coincided with international women’s day. Beheshti died in jail a few days after he was arrested in 2012 over a blog critical of the government. “These actions (the meeting) will lead to an increased suspicion between our people and the West and it doesn’t help relations between Iran and Europe,” Iranian foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying by IRNA. Afkham had conveyed an official warning to the Austrian embassy in Tehran over the “unplanned meeting,” IRNA said, without elaborating. The Austrian Foreign Ministry declined to comment.


Newsline: Senior Austrian diplomat to aid woman charged with extramarital sex in Dubai

A senior Austrian diplomat is to help a 29-year-old female compatriot fight extramarital-sex charges in Dubai. Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer will head a negotiation team sent by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to defend the Viennese student who was the United Arab Emirates as a tourist, according to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper. The Austrian woman said she was offered a lift home by a man after a party, but was then raped in the parking garage of a five-star hotel. She added that she was then locked up for three days and meanwhile was encouraged to marry her attacker to “milden the punishment.” The man involved said the sex was voluntary and he even offered to pay for it. The woman filed a complaint to the police, though in the Muslim country extra-marital sex is prohibited, as is the consumption of alcohol, which the woman had also engaged in. Ellison-Kramer has previous experience in Dubai, where she successfully defended an Austrian anaesthetist accused of murder in the country in 2009, according to the reports.