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Archive for France

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.

Newsline: Ambassador’s Recall Unlikely to Be Last Word in Franco-Italian Confrontation

When France last recalled its ambassador from Italy it was 1940 and Benito Mussolini had just used the opportunity of the Germans marching into Paris to declare war on his northern neighbor. The backdrop to the withdrawal last week by the Élysée Palace of its ambassador to Rome following months of slurs traded between the country’s leaders, amid disputes over migration policy and Libya, was not accompanied by the thump of artillery shells (https://www.voanews.com/a/ambassador-s-recall-unlikely-to-be-last-word-in-franco-italian-confrontation/4783265.html). Nonetheless, it has prompted rising fears that the recent public bickering between two of the European Union’s founding members is only just getting started and could spark even more serious retaliatory action. Some Italian commentators and industrialists have warned the feuding, driven by internal political dynamics on both sides of the Alps, risks boiling over into the economic sphere. “Given the intricate geopolitical, economic and commercial ties between the two countries, there is no shortage of areas in which the French could make us pay,” Lucio Caracciolo, director of the Limes geopolitical review, wrote recently in an article for Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper.

Newsline: France Recalls Ambassador to Italy After Minister Meets ‘Yellow Vest’ Protesters

It has happened rarely between European Union allies, and not between France and Italy since the start of World War II. But on February 7, after months of barbed commentary from Italian leaders, the French government said it had had enough: It recalled its ambassador from Rome (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/07/world/europe/france-italy-ambassador-yellow-vests.html). “This is without precedent since 1940, when Mussolini declared war,” said Marc Lazar, a leading specialist of Franco-Italian relations who teaches at universities in Paris and Rome. “This is very, very harsh. There’s never been anything comparable.’’ The grave step not only demonstrated the breakdown of relations between France and Italy, two founding members of the European Union. It also reflected the mounting strains at Europe’s core, brought on by populists who are now overreaching in their attempts to denigrate the bloc and forge anti-European alliances across borders. The list of insults, particularly on the Italian side, has grown long, and progressively more outrageous as the Italian populist leaders try to score political points at home by attacking backers of the vision of a united Europe — the French president, Emmanuel Macron, first among them.

Newsline: Cameroon Summons French, German Envoys Over Embassy Violence

Attacks against Cameroon’s missions in Europe entailed diplomatic consequences. Cameroon reportedly summoned French and German envoys to protest “violence and vandalism” during opposition demonstrations at the central African nation’s embassies in Paris and Berlin(https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-30/cameroon-summons-french-german-envoys-over-embassy-violence). The two European host governments were accused of failure to provide ample diplomatic and consular protection during the Jan. 26 protests by the Cameroon opposition, in violation of international conventions. The United Nations condemned the violence at the Cameroonian embassies, and it also expressed concern about alleged use of force by security forces during demonstrations in Cameroon.

Newsline: Thousands of passports stolen at the Cameroonian embassy in Paris

During the ransacking of the Cameroonian embassy in Paris om January 26, nearly 20,000 Cameroonian passports were stolen while other 900 passport files were stolen or destroyed. In addition, several hundred passports of all nationalities awaiting visas from Cameroon have also disappeared, as well as service stamps and other official documents. The Embassy’s computer system was also destroyed. A cash box plus the hard drives containing the video surveillance records were taken away. According to a source at the Embassy who requested anonymity, the damage is considerable. The disappearance of hundreds of passports of all nationalities will put many visitors to Cameroon in difficulty. The same source said it will take weeks for the consular services to restore the normal functioning of the institution. The Embassy estimates that 50,000 Cameroonians are legally resident in France.