Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for France

Newsline: France replaces ambassador to Czech Republic after visa scandal

France has replaced its ambassador Charles Malinas to the Czech Republic, who held the post from last August, with Roland Galharague, who was appointed on February 10, according to the embassy’s Internet page. Mondafrique server puts the change in connection with a scandal with the granting of French visas to the citizens of the Central African Republic, where Malinas was ambassador before he was moved to Prague. According to the server, the French embassy issued hundreds of visas to Central Africans without checking them duly. The case was uncovered a few months ago when the French anti-terrorism forces detained a group of radical Muslims, who arrived in France from the Central African Republic. It writes that the practice was covered up personally by Malians and that the French Foreign Ministry is investigating the case. It is not ruled out that Malinas sought personal enrichment. He had to leave Prague in December already. Malinas officially assumed the post last October.


Newsline: Namibian Embassy to the Rescue As Zimbabwe Envoy’s Car Breaks Down in France

Zimbabwe’s diplomats in Europe are using battered cars with some relying on fellow African envoys’ transport to attend business, a government report has revealed. One such diplomat is Rudo Mabel Chitiga, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to France. According to a recent report by the Parliamentary Portfolio on Foreign Affairs, to the speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, Chitiga’s car failed to start when she had visited a fellow African diplomat in Paris recently. “The first incident involved our ambassador in Paris whose official car couldn’t start when she had visited her Namibian counterpart and was forced, under humiliating circumstances, to use the Namibian ambassador’s car back to her office. This is because the car she is using has already outlived its life span,” said the report.


Newsline: Russia Thwarted Attack near French Embassy

Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAC) said there is a drop in terrorist activity in Russia. According to Igor Kulyagin, first deputy director for the NAC, terrorist attacks were thwarted in Moscow, particularly near the French embassy. NAC said that the country “liquidated” more than 140 alleged terrorists working in Russia in 2016. Kulyagin, said at a press briefing in Moscow that more than 140 militants, including 24 leaders, were killed, and more than 900 gunmen and their accomplices were detained last year. Regarding the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in Russia from June 14 to July 15 next year, Kulyagin said Russia will be able to secure the games, citing the country’s experience in organizing past international events and the government’s counter-terrorism measures.


Newsline: French Consular Staff Busted for Visa Scam

Ties between France and the Kurdistan Region have never been stronger as evidenced by President Francois Hollande’s recent historic visit to Erbil and Paris’ military support of the Kurds. Yet amid flourishing diplomacy, the French consulate in Erbil is facing its biggest scandal yet: a corruption ring that allegedly involved a high-level diplomat. Employees at the French consulate in Erbil are facing charges of corruption that involved scamming Iraqis by pressing them to pay thousands of dollars for visas and embassy appointments. “It’s true, consular employees were redirecting applicants to travel agencies who would charge them ridiculous prices for appointments and visas,” Alain Guépratte, the French consul-general to the Kurdistan Region told Rudaw. Guépratte said he did not have sufficient evidence to call in French inspectors until late February. Deputy Consul-General Ludovic Francelle has been suspended for one year pending a criminal tribunal ahead of a trial. The Foreign Ministry would not comment on his exact role in the scam. Meanwhile, two Kurdish employees have been fired charging huge premiums on visas that should only cost €60. French media reported that some Iraqis paid $600 for an initial appointment and $800-$1,700 for a visa. They also paid for the agent to fill out an application. Generally, those wanting an appointment immediately would have to pay more. The European Union visa is one of the most coveted and difficult visas for Iraqis to obtain. Although they have an easier time traveling internationally now than in the past, it still can be difficult for Iraqis and other citizens of poor, war-torn countries such as Syria to obtain visas from western and Arab countries that fear they might seek asylum. Following an investigation by the Kurdish intelligence service, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) officials reported that people may have been paying upwards of $10,000.


Newsline: Diplomatic push grows against Islamic State group

Reconnaissance planes at the ready, France’s president said there was “no time to lose” in the global push to combat extremists from the Islamic State group, minus the two countries who share most of Iraq’s borders. French reconnaissance jets were prepared to take off Monday, a French official said. An American official said several Arab countries had offered to conduct airstrikes. “The terrorist threat is global and the response must be global,” French President Francois Hollande said, opening an international conference Monday intended to come up with a global strategy against the group. “There is no time to lose.” Muslim-majority countries are considered vital to any operation to prevent the militants from gaining more territory in Iraq and Syria. Western officials have made clear they consider Syrian President Bashar Assad part of the problem, and U.S. officials opposed France’s attempt to invite Iran. France’s foreign minister acknowledged that a number of the countries at the table Monday had “very probably” financed Islamic State’s advances, and Iraq’s president appeared ambivalent about Arab participation, saying his country needed the support of its neighbors — but not necessarily their fighter jets or soldiers. In an interview on Sunday with The Associated Press in Paris, Iraq’s President Fouad Massoum — a Kurd, whose role in the government is largely ceremonial — expressed regret that Iran was not attending. He also seemed lukewarm to the possible participation Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in airstrikes in Iraqi territory.


Newsline: Saudi embassy denies cash, “sensitive documents” stolen in Paris attack

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Paris has issued a statement carried on Saudi state media confirming that a car owned by a Saudi citizen was forced to stop on the way to the airport and stolen, but denied media reports that the vehicle was affiliated to the embassy and was carrying money and sensitive documents. Reuters claimed that armed gunmen ambushed a Saudi prince’s convoy on the outskirts of Paris on Sunday evening, making off with a large amount of cash and some private documents in what police said looked like a raid by well-informed attackers. The Saudi convoy of about a dozen cars had been heading for the small Le Bourget airport north of the city along the major A1 highway with the prince, whose name was not revealed. According to a police official about eight masked attackers with guns, driving in two BMW cars, forced one of the cars in the convoy to stop near the Porte de la Chapelle exit junction on the northern edge of the capital at around 2100 (1900 GMT).


Newsline: Gunmen Attack Saudi Embassy Car in Paris, Steal $334,0000

Gunmen armed with assault weapons ambushed a car from Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Paris, stealing 250,000 euros ($334,000) in cash, a police union official said. The assault occurred late yesterday near the Paris city limits as a convoy of vehicles from the embassy headed to Le Bourget airport, said Rocco Contento, a representative of Unite SGP Police. A Saudi prince was in one of the vehicles, he said. The airport, seven kilometers (4.3 miles) north of Paris, serves business aircraft. “They must have been informed about the schedule,” he said. The assault was “very well organized” because no shots were fired and no one was hurt, he said. Spokespeople for the police in Paris didn’t immediately return calls for comment. The Saudi embassy didn’t immediately respond to requests for a comment. No one was injured in the attack, which occurred between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. as the vehicles entered the A1 highway in Paris’s 18th district, said Contento, who got his information from the police unit that responded to the attack. The last car in the convoy, a Mercedes minivan with only a driver inside, was hijacked by eight hooded gunmen in two BMWs, he said. The attackers stole the minivan with the driver and released him later, Contento said. They also took sensitive documents, he said. The vehicle was later found burned, Contento said. The prince continued to the airport and caught his plane, the union official said.