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Archive for France

Newsline: Britons in France grill ambassador over post-Brexit rights

It was supposed to be a simple mission to update British nationals in Paris about their rights after Brexit. The setting was the 18th-century embassy building, the backdrop to centuries of British diplomacy. Instead Edward Llewellyn, the British ambassador, was subjected to a two-hour roasting by angry British nationals. “I went there seeking reassurance and I came away terrified about my future,” Ian Fox, a senior executive at an internationally renowned consumer brand in Paris, told the Guardian after the meeting. Lord Llewellyn, who was formerly David Cameron’s chief of staff, started out with a prepared speech about the “considerable progress” Brexit negotiators had made, explaining how he understood their “anxieties and concerns”. But he ended up being heckled and laughed at when he told them Theresa May had prioritised their rights. “Feel the temperature in the room,” one man shouted.



Newsline: Italy summons French ambassador over cross-border urine test

The Italian foreign ministry summoned France’s ambassador, after uniformed French customs officers crossed the border to confront a man suspected of carrying drugs. France insisted the presence of its personnel at an alpine railway station just inside Italy was acceptable. However, the French ambassador, Christian Masset, was summoned over what Rome called “a serious act considered outside the scope of cooperation between states sharing a border”. The foreign ministry added that the neighbouring countries would address the issue further at a meeting in Turin on 16 April. The dispute began late on Friday when the French officials turned up at a train station in the Italian alpine village of Bardonecchia and told a man to provide a urine sample. The Rainbow4Africa NGO, which has for months occupied part of the train station to help migrants headed for France, filed a complaint about the treatement of the man, who is from Nigeria. Italian officials reacted with outrage, prompting an official explanatory statement from the French embassy. Gerald Darmanin, the French minister charged with overseeing customs, signed the statement which explained how French officials came to be present when the Paris-bound train arrived from Milan. “These uniformed agents identified as French customs officials suspected one passenger, a Nigerian national resident in Italy, of having drugs on his person. “In line with article 60 bis of the customs code the agents asked the person if he would consent to providing a urine sample to detect drugs which he agreed to do in writing,” the statement read. “In order to carry out the test in conditions respecting the person, the agents waited until the train arrived to use the facility at Bardonecchia station which was placed at the disposal of French customs,” the statement went on, saying the procedure respected guidelines laid down in 1990. The French officials duly carried out the test which came back negative. But the Italian foreign ministry said France had failed to keep them fully abreast of developments, and criticised the incident as “unacceptable”. Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s far-right League, commented that Rome, “instead of expelling Russian diplomats should remove French diplomats”, referring to the furore over the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, widely blamed on Moscow.


Newsline: French embassy workers arrested in Israel for smuggling weapons to Palestinians

Two French Embassy workers along with five Palestinians have been indicted on charges of smuggling dozens of weapons from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to the West Bank. The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cleared for release on Monday that 24-year-old French citizen Romain Franck, who worked as a driver in the French Consulate in east Jerusalem, was part of a cell that smuggled 70 pistols and two assault rifles through the Erez crossing on the Israel-Gaza border on five different occasions. He is accused of using his diplomatic vehicle to avoid security checks at the Erez border crossing as well as using another vehicle with diplomatic plates – a Citroen that was for his personal use – to drive through the Kalandiya checkpoint to get from Jerusalem to Ramallah.


Newsline: Pro-Kurds clash with police outside US embassy in Paris

Pro-Kurdish demonstrators protesting against Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria have clashed with police outside the U.S. embassy in Paris. French police tried to keep the protesters back from the embassy building on Tuesday night and used tear gas to disperse the protest. Some protesters threw projectiles at police and several of them were injured in the scuffles that followed. The protesters were expressing anger at a perceived lack of action from the U.S. after Turkey announced that its troops and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters had begun a siege of the Syrian Kurdish-held northern town of Afrin.


Newsline: French embassy attacked in Burkina Faso’s capital

Four attackers at the French Embassy in Burkina Faso have been “neutralized,” the government of Burkina Faso said Friday. Both the French Embassy and the General Staff of the Armed Forces, the headquarters of Burkina Faso’s armed forces, have come under attack, a government statement said, and there are security forces on the scene. It urged people to keep calm and avoid areas where there might be gunfire.


Newsline: France, UK will not move embassies to Jerusalem

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that his country had no plans to move its embassy to Jerusalem. “France does not intend to move its embassy to a city other than Tel Aviv for now,” Le Drian told RTL Radio during an interview. He said the Palestinians needed hope while the Israeli side should take responsibility. “France will support any peace process in the region,” the French minister said. According to French Foreign Ministry, Le Drian will be in Washington Dec. 18 to meet his U.S. counterpart Rex Tillerson, addressing issues like Trump’s Jerusalem move, Syria, and North Korea. UK also will not move its embassy to Jerusalem, UK ambassador to Egypt announced.


Newsline: Germany probes cash fund at Paris embassy

Germany’s foreign ministry said on Sunday it was probing past unusual billing practices at its Paris embassy after reports of an undeclared cash fund to pay staff for special events. Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has ordered a “special inspection” into the allegations, which first emerged amid a dispute with two former employees, the ministry said in a statement sent to AFP. In the case first reported by Le Monde daily, a former butler and head waiter had accused the embassy of using fake invoicing practices to channel money into a fund used to give staff undeclared cash for overtime work. The men claimed they were fired for criticising the system, which had been used during events organised at the ambassador’s residence on behalf of private companies such as BMW and Mercedes. Le Monde estimated that staff had received “hundreds of thousands of euros” in cash payments since 2007. Germany’s foreign ministry, after initially saying only that it was looking into the claims, now admitted to past irregularities, in reply to a question from a Green Party lawmaker. The billing practices “did not meet the usual standards”, senior foreign ministry official Walter Lindner wrote in a statement first reported by the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger daily.