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Archive for Australia

Newsline: Australian embassy visa office in Iran shut down amid warning of possible corruption

The Government has shut down its visa processing operations in Iran after it was warned some migration agents were boasting of corruptly obtaining visas through a contact in the Australian embassy in Tehran. The ABC understands the allegations, outlined in a letter sent to the embassy in January 2017, were then referred to Australia’s peak corruption watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), for investigation (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-31/australian-embassy-in-iran-shuts-down-visa-processing-office/10761994). The visa processing section at the embassy was shut down in July last year. The ABC has been told that investigators — believed to be from ACLEI’s Visa Integrity Task Force — have questioned several Iranians in Australia about the circumstances in which they obtained their visas.


Newsline: Man charged in Australia over suspect embassy packages

A Victorian man is accused of sending asbestos in 38 packages to embassies and consulates in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. Victorian man Savas Avan, 49, faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday, charged with sending 38 dangerous articles in the post. He was arrested on Wednesday night at his Shepparton home, hours after consulates in Melbourne were forced into lockdown having received suspicious packages in the mail. A prosecutor told court the deliveries contained asbestos and Avan did not apply for bail.


Newsline: Suspicious packages investigated at consulates, embassies in Australia

Authorities said Wednesday that they were investigating suspicious packages that had been sent to several consulates and embassies in Melbourne and Canberra, the capital. Australian Federal Police gave few details, saying only that emergency units were responding to suspicious packages delivered to diplomatic addresses in the two cities. Victoria State Emergency Services began reporting hazardous-materials alerts along major streets that are home to numerous foreign consulates in Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city, beginning early Wednesday afternoon. U.S. diplomatic officials in Australia told ABC, Australia’s national public broadcaster, that the U.S. Consulate in Melbourne was among the institutions that had received the packages but that the U.S. Embassy in Canberra wasn’t. “We handled the package according to our standard procedures and in close coordination with local authorities … who are investigating the incident,” a spokesman for the Melbourne consulate told the news service. No further information was immediately available about Wednesday’s reports, which came two days after a suspicious white powder was discovered in a package at the Argentine Consulate in Sydney, Australia’s largest city.


Newsline: Australia’s canceled Israel embassy move shows country’s Asian concerns

When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison decided to shelve a plan to relocate his country’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he was concerned about the country’s relationship with its Asian neighbors, rather than with the Palestinians. The confusion has highlighted the policy-making difficulties for a country growing more reliant on Asia. “Fundamentally, it is the right of every country to determine its national capital,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney. “West Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. And we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of, and after final status of determination,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney. He said Australia will recognize West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but he also denied his government will relocate the embassy immediately. A political source in Canberra said, “Morrison meant that Australia would not relocate its embassy in Israel for the time being.”


Newsline: Russian, Iranian embassies in Canberra told use empty land or lose the lease

The Russian government could lose its right to land for a new embassy if it doesn’t show signs of using its existing vacant plot, according to the chief planner for the National Capital Authority. Andrew Smith has threatened to have the lease withdrawn if the Russians didn’t show signs of building on the prime Yarralumla block in the diplomatic enclave. The saga of unused land in a prime Canberra area has been long-running. Russia was reported to be starting work back in 2015, but then, last year, it said that the builder had gone broke. Since then, there has been some dialogue with the Australian authorities but not progress on the site. “We’ve gone back to them and said, ‘Look, you’ve got to start’,” Mr Smith said. He was waiting for a response. The Russian embassy didn’t respond to requests from The Canberra Times for comment. The National Capital Authority chief planner was also exasperated by delays in getting work started on a new Iranian embassy. “We continue to pressure the Iranians,” he said after the hearing. In the Iranian case, one of the difficulties has been the death of the original architect, though the allocated land has been empty for decades. It was given a deadline for work to at least begin in 2015 and plans were produced but the death then set everything back.


Newsline: Iran decries Canberra’s decision to move Israel embassy

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasimi says Australia’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would, if carried out, represent a violation of international resolutions. Speaking to Iran’s Azad News Agency on Wednesday, Qasimi described the proposed move by Canberra as a “wrong and miscalculated decision”. If implemented, he warned, the decision would be seen as a “violation of all international resolutions related to Palestine and the Israeli-occupied territories”. “Such a move would not help resolve the longstanding issue of Palestine and the wider Middle East,” Qasimi added. “It will only serve to raise tensions in the region.” On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced his country’s decision to formally recognize West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He went on to assert, however, that Australia would not relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem until Palestine/Israel peace was achieved.


Newsline: Beijing and Taipei collide over consulate assistance in Australia

China’s offer of formal consular assistance to Taiwanese citizens involved in a fatal car crash near Perth earlier this week has provoked a diplomatic stand-off with Taipei’s officials in Australia. The move by Chinese officials has been described by diplomatic observers as “very unusual” and potentially a strategy by Beijing to assert Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, representing Taiwan in Australia, said one Taiwanese tourist died and two were injured in a horrific head-on accident last Sunday involving three vehicles on Western Australia’s Indian Ocean Drive north of Lancelin. China’s consulate in Perth released a statement on Wednesday describing the “Taiwanese compatriots” as Chinese citizens, and noting an offer of formal ­assistance from Chinese consul-general Lei Kezhong. In order to establish relations with China, Canberra adopted a “one China” policy where it does not recognise Taiwan as a country or have formal relations with the self-governing territory, which China claims as its own. The move by China has provoked Taiwan’s representatives in Australia, who say they want to “reiterate” that the victims are Taiwanese and only their office has the formal credentials to offer consular assistance. They said, however, they were unable to prevent the moves by China’s diplomats.