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Archive for EU

Newsline: European diplomats check India’s loosening of Kashmir clampdown

More than two dozen diplomats are visiting Indian-administered Kashmir, New Delhi said, as the country tries to reassure foreign allies following several months of unrest in the contested territory. The group includes European diplomats, some of whom declined a previous invitation from New Delhi to visit the region. A proposed vote in the European Union parliament next month could chastise India for its actions in Kashmir. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-kashmir/european-diplomats-check-indias-loosening-of-kashmir-clampdown-idUSKBN2061PA) The Muslim-majority Himalayan region is claimed by India and arch-rival Pakistan and has been in turmoil since New Delhi stripped it of special status and clamped down on communication and freedom of movement in August. India has since eased those restrictions, and restored limited internet connectivity last month, ending one of the world’s longest such shutdowns in a democracy. But many political leaders, including three former chief ministers of Jammu & Kashmir state, are still in detention without charge six months after the crackdown, and foreign journalists have so far been denied permission to visit the region.

Newsline: EU’s foreign policy chief travels to Iran in de-escalation mission

The head of the European Union’s foreign service, Josep Borrell, travels to Iran to meet the country’s leaders in a bid to reduce tensions in the Middle East, the EU said in a statement on Sunday. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-eu-idUSKBN1ZW0BK) During in his trip on Monday and Tuesday, Borrell will meet Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif among others. “Borrell received a strong mandate from the EU foreign ministers to engage in diplomatic dialogue with regional partners, to de-escalate tensions and seek opportunities for political solutions to the current crisis,” the statement said. Tensions in the region stepped up after the killing in early January of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by the United States in Iraq.

Newsline: European Union names first ambassador to Brexit Britain

The European Union named a Portuguese diplomat as its first ambassador to Britain after it leaves the EU next week. Britain’s tortured EU divorce will be final on Jan. 31, more than three years since Britons 52-48% in a referendum in favor of departing the bloc. “As of that date, the United Kingdom will be a third country,” the EU’s joint foreign policy service said in a statement that named João Vale de Almeida “the first head of the future EU delegation to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-diplomacy/european-union-names-first-ambassador-to-brexit-britain-idUSKBN1ZN1V3) It said Almeida, who previously serves as the EU’s ambassador to the United Nations and the United States, would take up his new role on Feb. 1.

Newsline: EU’s former ambassador to South Korea suspect in China spy probe

Gerhard Sabathil, the European Union’s former ambassador to South Korea, has been identified as the subject of a German probe into alleged spying activities for China’s Ministry of State Security, according to three European sources. (https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3046484/eus-former-ambassador-south-korea-suspect-china-spy-probe) The investigation, which has sent shock waves through Beijing, Berlin and Brussels, came to light after German authorities raided the flats and offices of Sabathil and two other individuals. German police have made no arrests. Sabathil could not immediately be reached for comment. A dual citizen of Germany and Hungary, Sabathil left diplomacy in 2017 to join the European lobbying firm Eutop. Eutop’s lawyer, Christian Schertz, said in an emailed response to the South China Morning Post’s questions: “Given that the circumstances described by you do not concern the activities of our client, we see no reason for our client to comment.”

Newsline: US ambassador to EU accused of sexual misconduct by three women

Gordon Sondland, the Northwest hotelier who has provided key testimony in impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, is facing accusations of sexual misconduct and professional retaliation from three women, according to a report published by ProPublica and Portland Monthly. Sondland, who formerly owned the Ridpath Hotel in Spokane, denied all the allegations including one alleged incident at a Seattle hotel – in a statement to ProPublica, calling them “untrue claims” concocted for political purposes. He also posted a statement on his personal website, calling the reports “underhanded journalism,” laying out what he said were flaws in the stories, and saying he intends to sue both publications “and others involved as swiftly as possible.” (https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2019/nov/29/report-northwest-hotelier-and-ambassador-gordon-so/) The accusations stem from Sondland’s time in business, before his appointment in 2018 as U.S. ambassador to the European Union, a post he secured after donating $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. All three women agreed to be named in detailing their new accusations against Sondland, including Nicole Vogel, owner of Portland Monthly, who says Sondland made unwanted advances after she met with him in 2003 seeking financing for launching the publication.

Newsline: Stunning ambassador’s testimony links Trump to abuse of power

US ambassador to EU Gordon Sondland wrote his name in history and triggered a turning point in the House impeachment inquiry with stunning testimony implicating the President in an abuse of power. In effect, one of President Donald Trump’s political appointees confirmed the core allegation of the entire scandal: that he conditioned aid and recognition for Ukraine on personal favors that could help him in his 2020 reelection campaign. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/11/21/politics/donald-trump-impeachment-gordon-sondland-today/index.html) This was no “Never Trumper” bureaucrat perpetrating what some of the President’s conservative backers have called a coup. He was a glad-handing businessman who paid $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee and ended up with a plum job. Sondland destroyed once and for all the earliest presidential talking point that there was no quid pro quo with Ukraine. He explicitly said the prospect of a White House visit for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was conditional on Ukraine announcing an investigation against Trump’s possible 2020 rival Joe Biden.

Newsline: Embattled US Ambassador vows to return to Brussels

After a short time in his hometown Portland this week, Gordon Sondland plans to return to Brussels and resume his work as U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. His lawyer confirmed Thursday that Sondland will stay on the job. “Ambassador Sondland has no intention of resigning,” said Jim McDermott, his Portland lawyer. Sondland has been bruised politically and personally since he emerged as a key witness in the impeachment inquiry. He’s been denounced as a perjurer by some pundits and mocked by late-night talk show hosts. It’s believed that Sondland will return to Brussels next week – apparently with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s blessing. “Ambassador Sondland has the full support of Secretary Pompeo,” McDermott said. (https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/11/embattled-ambassador-gordon-sondland-vows-hes-not-quitting-and-will-soon-return-to-brussels.html) Sondland’s unlikely transformation from wealthy obscurity to international notoriety won’t end anytime soon. He will likely be subpoenaed to appear in public hearings in the coming weeks – and is expected to attend. He defied the Trump Administration by appearing for closed-door testimony after being subpoenaed last month.