Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Assange risks to be kicked out of Ecuador embassy over Catalonia

The Wikileaks Founder’s support for Catalan separatists has antagonised the new president, Lenin Moreno, who had asked the Australian hacker to stay out of the independence debate. Responding to the president on Twitter, Assange accused President Moreno of attempting to silence him. He wrote: “If President Moreno wants to gag my reporting of human rights abuses in Spain he should say so explicitly — together with the legal basis.” The Australian hacker, who has been sheltered at the embassy for more than five years, is believed to be wanted by the United States for exposing state secrets.



Newsline: Qatar embassy ‘severely damaged’ in Somali blast

Qatar says its embassy was “severely damaged” in the deadly truck bombing in Somalia’s capital. A foreign ministry statement Sunday says the embassy’s charge d’affaires was “slightly injured in the explosion but he is now in a good health, and the rest of staff are fine.” Saturday’s blast killed at least 231 people. It is the deadliest ever attack in the Horn of Africa nation.


Newsline: Spanish Embassy workers will join worldwide strike on Monday

The local workers at the Spanish Embassy in Israel will join the world wide strike on Monday of the foreign public service employees for higher wages. There has not been a raise in wages in 10 years and the cost of living has continually increased especially in Tel Aviv. Spain has been in an economic crisis and austerity measures have been placed so salary increases to employees were sidelined. However, the strikers believe the government wastes money and is fully capable of a cost of living increase.


Newsline: Cubans Must Now Go to Colombia to Apply to Immigrate to the USA

US diplomatic sources said that Cubans who want to immigrate to the United States, often under family reunification, will have to apply for a visa at that country’s embassy in Colombia. “Following the suspension of visa services at the US Embassy in Havana, the State Department decided that the Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, will be responsible for dealing with requests for immigration visas for residents of Cuba,” said a statement from the US Embassy in Havana. The decision is the result of Washington pulling out the majority of its diplomatic personnel stationed in Havana after denouncing alleged “sonic attacks” against its personnel in Cuba. Although Washington does not blame the Cuban government for the attacks, it does hold it accountable for failing to adequately protect its diplomats on the island. The scarce personnel that remained on the island will focus on basic diplomatic duties and consular attention to US citizens visiting Cuba. Cubans who want to apply for a migratory visa must travel to Colombia to do the process. Non-migratory visas, such as business or tourism, may be requested personally in any diplomatic delegation of the United States in third countries. The only non-migratory visas to be managed in Havana will be diplomatic, official and emergency cases for health reasons. Under a migration agreement between the two countries, since 1994 the United States agreed to grant Cubans 20,000 annual immigrant visas, which will now be very difficult to meet due to the lack of consular staff in Havana.


Newsline: US diplomat summoned over Russian flag removal from seized diplomatic properties

The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the US embassy chief in Moscow to demand the return of Russian flags, which were removed from seized diplomatic properties in the United States earlier this week. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the American charge d’affaires had been summoned to account for the seized diplomatic property. “I can say you for sure that the protest has been lodged to the US side taking into consideration absolutely inadmissible actions. The US charge d’affaires in Russia was summoned and he has received a note of protest.” Russian flags had been removed from former consular buildings in San Francisco as well as a trade mission in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, which had previously been shut by US authorities. The Russian mission to the US described the move as “extremely unfriendly” while on Thursday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by phone that the flag’s removal was “unacceptable.” In response, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a press briefing on Thursday that the flags had been “respectfully lowered,” are being “safely stored” and will be returned “at their [Russia’s] convenience.” The dispute over the flags is the latest episode in an ongoing diplomatic row between Moscow and Washington, which started with the expulsion of 35 Russian embassy staff by outgoing President Barack Obama in late December 2016, as well as the closure of two diplomatic compounds in Washington, DC, and Maryland.


Newsline: New audio adds to mystery of attacks on US diplomats in Cuba

A new audio recording said to capture what was heard by some US embassy workers amid a series of attacks on American diplomats in Cuba is adding another layer of intrigue around the mysterious incidents that sickened at least 22 US diplomats and family members. The recording — obtained by The Associated Press — is the first publicly reported audio sample said to be related to attacks that, according to a US official, may have involved the use of an acoustic device. The device was so sophisticated, it was outside the range of audible sound, the official said. And it was so damaging, the source said, that one US diplomat now needs to use a hearing aid. But what remains unknown is what kind of device may have been used, where exactly it was placed, and who put it there.


Newsline: Malaysia eyes closing embassy in North Korea

Malaysia is considering closing down its embassy in Pyongyang months after bilateral ties cooled following the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said his ministry will propose to the cabinet to relegate the mission’s service to the Malaysian embassy in Beijing as it is not safe to assign a new ambassador to Pyongyang, according local news reports. Anifah was speaking on Thursday at a dialogue with university students in Sarawak, a state in the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo. “We may or may not sever ties with North Korea but we will have the [mission] accredited to the Beijing embassy,” Anifah was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times online news site. Malaysia imposed a travel ban to North Korea on Sept. 28, citing escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Pyongyang’s missile tests as reasons.