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Archive for Italy

Newsline: Ex-Italian diplomat sentenced for smuggling Egyptian artefacts

A Cairo criminal court sentenced a former honorary Italian consul to 15 years in jail in absentia for smuggling antiquities out of the country, a judicial source said. Ladislav Otakar Skakal, Italy’s former honorary consul in Luxor, attempted to smuggle 21,855 artefacts from various historical eras in 2017, according to the prosecutor general. These included over 21,000 golden coins, 151 miniature figurines, five mummy masks, 11 pottery vessels, three ceramic tiles dating to the Islamic period and a wooden sarcophagus. Italian police found the sizeable loot in a diplomatic shipping container heading from the port city of Alexandria to Salerno in Italy in 2017. (https://www.thelocal.it/20200122/italian-diplomat-sentenced-for-smuggling-egyptian-artefacts) Skakal’s trial, along with other accomplices, began in September last year. Prosecutors found that the antiquities were smuggled with the aid of Raouf Ghali, the brother of former Hosni Mubarak-era finance minister Youssef Ghali. A verdict is expected next month for Skakal’s alleged Egyptian accomplices. Egypt managed to retrieve the stolen antiquities in cooperation with Italian authorities in 2018. It also requested that Interpol issue a red notice against the disgraced diplomat.

Newsline: South Sudan backtracks on embassy shutdowns, set to reopen 4

South Sudan has reversed a decision to close down some of its embassies across the world as the country’s president Salva Kiir on Friday ordered the reopening of four diplomatic missions that were closed some months ago. Kiir quashed a previous directive for the closure of some diplomatic missions and ordered the reopening of three embassies in Europe and one in Asia, information minister Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting. “The president informed the cabinet that he has set aside the order that was made for the closure of some embassies,” Makuie said. (http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-08/17/c_138314799.htm) “Those embassies which were closed… another order has been issued reinstating them. These embassies are of Norway, France, Italy and Kuwait… now these embassies will continue to operate,” he added. South Sudan’s foreign ministry announced in May that it was reviewing the status of its 39 embassies and consulates across the world and close some in a bid to reduce operational costs.

Newsline: Venezuela’s ambassador to Italy resigns

The Venezuelan ambassador to Italy has resigned, saying his government’s financial difficulties have made his job impossible. In a letter addressed directly to President Nicolás Maduro and posted on Twitter, Ambassador Isaías Rodríguez reiterated his “immense respect for Maduro’s battle” but insisted the sanctions imposed by the US mean he cannot carry out his duties. (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/21/venezuelas-ambassador-to-italy-resigns) At a press conference in Rome, Rodríguez said that – due to the sanctions adopted against Caracas – he no longer has the money to pay his employees’ salaries and the rent of his office in Rome, whose debt amounted to €9m. Rodríguez explained that the sanctions had heavy repercussions on the embassy’s financial budget and that they were no longer able to bear the expenses of the diplomatic headquarters in Italy. Rodriguez, 77, explained that he wanted to dedicate himself to “being a grandfather”.

Newsline: Italy Confirms Venezuelan Opposition Lawmaker Is in Its Caracas Embassy

Italy confirmed on May 10 that Venezuelan opposition lawmaker Americo De Grazia has entered the Italian embassy in Caracas after a pro-government legislative body stripped him of parliamentary immunity. “A member of the Venezuelan National Assembly of Italian origin Americo De Grazia, one of the seven legitimately elected persons in the National Assembly, was received in the residence of the Italian Ambassador in Caracas,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2019-05-10/italy-confirms-venezuelan-opposition-lawmaker-is-in-its-caracas-embassy) The ministry added that a judicial proceeding had been initiated against De Grazia. “The Embassy operates in full compliance with diplomatic conventions,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Newsline: North Korean envoy separated from his daughter

The daughter of a missing North Korean diplomat who is believed to be seeking asylum in Europe was separated from her parents and returned to Pyongyang, a prominent defector claimed this week. Thae Yong Ho, who fled his post as North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UK in 2016, said Jo Song Gil, a former envoy to Rome, “wasn’t able to leave Italy with his children and North Korea has summoned his children back to North Korea.” (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/20/asia/north-korea-italy-envoy-intl/index.html) Speaking to reporters on Feb. 20, Thae said a source in Pyongyang “told me that Jo’s daughter was in North Korea under state custody,” which he said explained Jo’s disappearance since he fled the Rome embassy late last year. “Today, Jo cannot reveal where he is or engage in public activity because he must fear safety of his daughter,” Thae said. He added that while he had previously urged Jo to join him in Seoul, he would no longer advocate this, as “the level of punishment against family left behind of diplomats who defected to South Korea or to the US are very different.” In a statement, the Italian Foreign Ministry said it had received a notice from the North Korean Embassy that Jo and his wife had left the embassy on November 10, “and that their daughter, having requested to return to her country to her grandparents, had returned there on November 14, 2018, accompanied by female staff from the Embassy.”

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.