Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for UK

Newsline: Israel approves raft of new envoys, including controversial ambassador to UK

Israel has confirmed half a dozen new ambassadors and consul-generals, including envoys to countries that will have a large impact on the Israeli government’s policies, security and development programmes. Among the appointments is Tzipi Hotovely, a right-wing religious nationalist, who is being made ambassador to the United Kingdom after a stint at the settlement affairs ministry. (https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-approves-raft-new-envoys-including-controversial-ambassador-uk) Hotovely, a rising power in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, is known for her Jewish supremacist views and disregard for the two-state solution. She is openly Islamophobic and supports the full annexation of the occupied West Bank. Her appointment comes as the British and Israeli governments are at odds over Israel’s now delayed plans to annex parts of the West Bank. When news she would be arriving in London broke last month, a petition was set up asking the UK’s Foreign Office to reject her nomination. It has now been signed by 1,800 members of Britain’s Jewish community.

Newsline: Russian foreign ministry complains to UK, US and Canadian embassies for flying the rainbow flag

The foreign ministry in Russia made a formal complaint to the UK, US and Canadian embassies in Moscow for flying the rainbow LGBT+ Pride flag during Pride Month. Russia’s infamous “gay propaganda” law bans any positive depiction of LGBT+ people. Anyone found guilty of sharing such information with minors can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison. A diplomatic source told TASS that the UK embassy in Moscow had received a protest note from the Russian foreign ministry for displaying the LGBT+ Pride flag, which it raised towards the end of June. (https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/07/29/russia-pride-flag-foreign-ministry-complaint-uk-us-canadian-embassy-rainbow-lgbt/) State Duma lawmaker Vasily Piskarev confirmed that protest notes had also been sent to the Canadian and US embassies in Moscow, which also displayed rainbow LGBT+ Pride flags.

Newsline: U.K. Cuts Immunity for Some U.S. Diplomats’ Families After Fatal Crash

An immunity waiver at a military base has been widened to cover employees’ families, after a diplomatic tug of war over the death of a British teenager. Britain and the United States have agreed to end a legal loophole that allowed an American woman to flee Britain after she was involved in a car accident that killed a teenager, the British authorities said, almost a year after the crash started a diplomatic tug of war between the two countries and sparked widespread outrage in Britain. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/22/world/europe/diplomatic-immunity-harry-dunn.html) The woman, Anne Sacoolas, the wife of an American diplomat, fled Britain under diplomatic immunity weeks after her car collided with the motorcycle of Harry Dunn, 19, near Royal Air Force Croughton, a military base operated by the U.S. Air Force in central England. For nearly a year, Mr. Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, have campaigned to have Ms. Sacoolas prosecuted in Britain, going to the White House in October, where President Trump welcomed them and tried to arrange a meeting with Ms. Sacoolas, who he said was waiting in a room nearby. Mr. Dunn’s parents refused to meet her. In January, the United States turned down an extradition request for Ms. Sacoolas, a decision that the British government called “a denial of justice.” The change in the law does not apply to her case, but only to future incidents.

Newsline: Russian Ambassador to UK says Moscow not interested in European states falling apart

Russia is not interested in disintegration of any European country, including in Scotland’s possible secession from the United Kingdom, Russian Ambassador to UK Anrei Kelin said in an interview with Sky News. Commenting on the report, published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday, Kelin said the document mentions Russia’s alleged attempt to meddle with the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, but “don’t provide any facts.” (https://tass.com/politics/1181077) “It does not make any sense to do this kind of operation. The issue of Scottish independence belongs to the people of Scotland and to the United Kingdom. Independence of any country – we have dealt with these processes, we know how difficult they are and we are not favourable towards disintegration processes in Europe,” reads the full transcript of the interview, posted on the embassy’s website. The Russian diplomat added that it would be hard for Scotland, which has a population of about 5.5 million people, to function as a small independent state. As an example, he cited the problem of depopulation in Baltic states, in particular Lithuania which has already lost 20% of its population. “We do not wish that Scotland leaves the United Kingdom. It is not in our interest at all,” Kelin added. The report published by the British Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee on Tuesday notes that Russian-UK relations cannot be improved under the current Russian leadership. The report also claims that Moscow had tried to interfere in the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence.

Newsline: Russia’s UK ambassador rejects coronavirus vaccine hacking allegations

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has rejected allegations that his country’s intelligence services tried to steal coronavirus vaccine research. “I don’t believe in this story at all, there is no sense in it,” Andrei Kelin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. On Thursday, UK security services said hackers targeting vaccine developers “almost certainly” operated as “part of Russian intelligence services”. Mr Kelin also rejected suggestions that Russia had interfered in UK politics. Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Russians almost certainly sought to interfere in the 2019 UK election through illicitly-acquired documents. The papers, which emerged online, detailed UK-US trade discussions and were used by Labour in its election campaign. “I do not see any point in using this subject as a matter of interference,” Mr Kelin said. “We do not interfere at all. We do not see any point in interference because for us, whether it will be [the] Conservative Party or Labour’s party at the head of this country, we will try to settle relations and to establish better relations than now.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53458122) The interview comes days before a report into allegations of wider Russian interference into UK democracy is due to be published by Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

Newsline: Mystery jogger in missing UK diplomat search

Police are hoping to identify a jogger captured in dash-cam footage shortly after a UK diplomat went missing. Richard Morris, 52, was last seen running in Alton, Hampshire, on 6 May at 10:50 BST. The unknown man is seen jogging on London Road at the junction with Lower Neatham Mill Lane, Alton, towards Binstead, at about 12:30 BST. Hampshire Constabulary said identifying the person in the footage would assist its investigation. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-53350560) Mr Morris was a father of three and UK ambassador to Nepal for four years until 2019. He was recently appointed British High Commissioner to Fiji.

Newsline: China’s ambassador rebukes UK for its ‘gross interference’ over Hong Kong

China’s ambassador to London accused Britain on Monday of gross interference and making irresponsible remarks over Beijing’s imposition of new security legislation in Hong Kong that he said could damage future Chinese investment. Britain has described the security law as a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration under which it handed back its colony to China 13 years later and said that London would offer around 3 million residents a path to British citizenship. “The UK government keeps making irresponsible remarks on Hong Kong affairs,” Ambassador Liu Xiaoming told reporters in the strongest rebuke Beijing has issued to London since Britain criticised the security law. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hongkong-protests-britain-china/chinese-ambassador-accuses-uk-of-gross-interference-over-hong-kong-idUSKBN24718J) On the British offer to give British National (Overseas) (BNO) passport holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, he said: “This move constitutes gross interference in China’s internal affairs and openly tramples on the basic norms governing international relations.” He said China would decide on its response after seeing how Britain proceeded with its passport offer.

Newsline: U.S. ambassador confirms American among victims in U.K. terror attack

An American national was among the three victims of a terrorist stabbing in the U.K. on Saturday night, Ambassador Woody Johnson confirmed. “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack on June 20,” Ambassador Johnson posted on Twitter. “To our great sorrow, this includes an American citizen. Our thoughts are with all those affected. We condemn the attack absolutely and have offered our assistance to British law enforcement.” (https://abcnews.go.com/International/american-national-died-uk-terror-stabbing-ambassador-confirms/story?id=71378669) Three people were killed and a further three were injured in the mass stabbing in Forbury Gardens, Reading, a town just outside of London, on Saturday. A 25-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the attack. Neil Basu, the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said that the stabbing had been declared a terrorist incident as a result of an overnight investigation.

Newsline: Appeal to joggers over missing UK diplomat

Police searching for a UK diplomat who has been missing for more than five weeks have appealed to joggers for information. Richard Morris, 52, was last seen running in Alton, Hampshire, on 6 May. Officers want anyone who was jogging in the Holybourne area between 12:00 BST and 13:00 that day to get in touch. They have also appealed for dashcam footage from motorists driving between Holybourne and Binsted between the same times. (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-53022011) The father of three was UK ambassador to Nepal for four years until 2019 and was recently appointed British High Commissioner to Fiji. Hampshire Constabulary said officers had searched more than nine sq km (3.5 sq miles) since Mr Morris disappeared, including at Alice Holt Forest and the River Wey. They have also scoured CCTV footage and carried out house-to-house inquiries in the area, the force added.

Newsline: Thousands join Black Lives Matter protest outside US Embassy in London

Thousands of protesters gathered outside the US Embassy in London on Sunday (Jun 7) to condemn police brutality after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some wearing face masks bearing the slogan “racism is a virus”. (https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/george-floyd-protests-black-lives-matter-london-protest-12813548) On Saturday, thousands of protesters had gathered in central London in a demonstration that was peaceful but that ended with small numbers of people clashing with mounted police near Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street residence. London Police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in “shocking and completely unacceptable” assaults during anti-racism protests in central London this week, including 14 on Saturday. Both Dick and health minister Matt Hancock urged protesters not to gather in London again on Sunday due to the risk of the spread of COVID-19. But thousands ignored this to pack the road outside the embassy on the south bank of the River Thames.