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Newsline: Vatican lifts immunity of papal diplomat accused of sexual assault in France

The Holy See has waived the diplomatic immunity of a Vatican diplomat who has been under investigation by authorities in Paris for allegedly sexually assaulting a city official. Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican Press Office, said the move was an “extraordinary gesture” that underlined the diplomat’s desire to fully cooperate with French authorities. (https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2019/07/08/vatican-lifts-immunity-papal-diplomat-accused-sexual-assault) In January, prosecutors in Paris had launched a formal investigation into an allegation against Italian Archbishop Luigi Ventura, 74, a Vatican diplomat who has been representing the Holy See in France since 2009. Gisotti confirmed July 8 that the Holy See had waived the diplomat’s immunity in light of the criminal proceedings underway against him in France.

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Newsline: French envoy summoned after ambassador to U.S. calls Israel ‘apartheid state’

Israel on Apr. 29 summoned France’s ambassador to Israel, Helene Le Gal, to the Foreign Ministry to protest comments by outgoing French Ambassador to the US Gerard Araud, who said that Israel is an apartheid state. “Israel adamantly protested those remarks,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Senior officials have also reportedly been instructed not to meet Araud, who served from 2003 to 2006 as France’s ambassador to Israel, on an upcoming visit. Earlier in the month, Araud said in an interview with The Atlantic that Israel was already an apartheid state. (https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/French-envoy-summoned-after-ambassador-to-US-calls-Israel-apartheid-state-588263) “The status quo is extremely comfortable for Israel; they [can] have the[ir] cake and eat it [too]. They have the West Bank, but at the same time they don’t have to make the painful decision about the Palestinians – really making them really, totally stateless or making them citizens of Israel. “They won’t make them citizens of Israel, so they will have to make it official – which is – we know the situation, which is an apartheid. There will be officially an apartheid state. They are, in fact, already,” Araud said. The French embassy had no comment on Le Gal’s meeting in the Foreign Ministry. Araud, however, clarified in various tweets on on Apr. 30 that he was referring to the West Bank.

Newsline: Iran summons French ambassador over colleague’s tweet

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reports the foreign ministry has summoned France’s ambassador to Tehran over remarks made on Twitter by his colleague in Washington. Ambassador Philippe Thiebaud was being asked on Apr. 14 to explain why the French ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, had tweeted that “sanctions could be reimposed” on Iran once the 2015 nuclear deal expires after 10 years. Araud said on Apr. 13 that because “Russia is providing enriched uranium” to Iran, Tehran shouldn’t need to be “massively enriching uranium after the JCPOA,” using the acronym for the nuclear deal signed with world powers, including France. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/iran-summons-french-ambassador-over-colleagues-tweet) ISNA says Iran’s foreign ministry has called Araud’s remarks “unacceptable” and in “open violation” of the nuclear deal. Under the nuclear deal, Iran capped its uranium enrichment activities in return to ending sanctions.

Newsline: French ambassador lashes out at German export policies

France’s ambassador to Germany, Anne-Marie Descotes, warned on Mar. 25 that German arms export policies and licensing rules threatened future Franco-German defense projects. The remarks come as the two European nations are seeking to form closer defense cooperation and deepen ties between their parliaments. In an essay published by the German military’s Federal Academy for Security Policy, she said Germany had a tendency to see arms exports as a domestic political issue, but that its policies still “have serious consequences for our bilateral cooperation in the defense sector and the strengthening of European sovereignty.” (https://www.dw.com/en/german-export-policies-threaten-european-defense-projects-french-ambassador/a-48060674) Germany’s unpredictable arms export policies and long waiting times for export licenses are a particular problem, Descotes said. This has an impact on major Franco-German projects to develop new tanks, combat jets and drones. “This situation is untenable,” she wrote. “Realistic export possibilities on the basis of clear and predictable rules are an essential prerequisite for the survival of our European defense industry.” Descotes pointed out that there are no standard procedures for the purchase of military equipment in Europe, something that France supports but that Germany has so far rejected. This has pushed EU member states to purchase arms outside of the continent and is fragmenting the European market.

Newsline: Russia Jails Alleged IS Members for Plot Against French Embassy in Moscow

A Russian court has sentenced five alleged Islamic State members this week over a plot to attack the French Embassy in Moscow, state media have reported. The fighters were detained in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia two years ago on suspicion of plotting a New Year’s Day attack on the embassy in 2017. A military court in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don sentenced the defendants to terms ranging from 12 to 20 years in maximum-security prison on Feb. 27, the state-run TASS news agency reported. (https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/03/01/russia-jails-alleged-islamic-state-members-for-plot-against-french-embassy-moscow-a64682) In addition to the plot against the French embassy, the convicted fighters were also accused of planning to attack metro stations in Moscow on New Year’s Eve 2017.

Newsline: Vatican ambassador under investigation for sexual assault

Bishop Luigi Ventura, apostolic nuncio to France since 2009 and a long-time Vatican diplomat, is under investigation for alleged sexual assault. The French newspaper Le Monde reported that Ventura, 74, is being investigated by Paris authorities after he was accused late January of having inappropriately touched a young male staffer of Paris City Hall. A Vatican statement Feb. 15 said that it was made aware of the French authorities’ investigation of the envoy through the press and is “awaiting the outcome of the investigations.” (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican-ambassador-under-investigation-for-sexual-assault-71198) The alleged assault is said to have taken place in Paris’ City Hall Jan. 17, during a reception for the annual New Year address of Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. The address is usually given to diplomats, religious leaders, and civil society members, with a role by the apostolic nuncio. The claim against Ventura was brought to French authorities by Paris City Hall six days after it allegedly took place. The alleged victim has not been identified.

Newsline: French envoy returns to Italy

France’s ambassador to Italy returned to Rome on Friday, more than a week after he was recalled by President Emmanuel Macron, as the European neighbors sought to defuse the worst diplomatic crisis between them since World War Two. A Senior French diplomat described the recall as “electro-shock therapy” that had been necessary to put an end to a campaign of “repeated, baseless” attacks by Italian political leaders against France (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-italy/french-ambassador-to-italy-to-return-to-rome-on-friday-minister-idUSKCN1Q40LQ). Some commentators saw the recall as an over-reaction by Macron but French officials said it had persuaded Italian politicians to reaffirm publicly their friendship with France and halt their verbal onslaught — at least for now.