Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Soccer-loving top US diplomat thanks French President

French President Emmanuel Macron received praise during a state visit to Washington for his diplomacy on issues from Lebanon to Ukraine. And also, from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, over soccer. The top US diplomat, who spent part of his childhood in France, at a luncheon Thursday in honor of Macron offered a light-hearted thank-you to Macron over his favorite team. The years in Paris “gifted me with a lifelong love of soccer — or football, to use the correct word – and also the Paris Saint-Germain team,” Blinken said. “So while I couldn’t be prouder to cheer on Team USA at the World Cup, I’m also thrilled to see Kylian Mbappe working his magic for Les Bleus and, Mr. President, thank you for keeping him in Paris.” (https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer-loving-top-us-diplomat-223848846.html) Blinken made these remarks as he and Vice President Kamala Harris welcomed Macron to a luncheon at the State Department.

Newsline: Chinese ‘super embassy’ blocked in London

A Chinese bid for a “super embassy” on the site on the old Royal Mint near Tower Bridge has been blocked amid fierce opposition and a growing political rift between Westminster and Beijing. In a shock decision, Tower Hamlets council voted unanimously to reject planning permission for the new multi million pound development in the heart of central London, despite advisers recommending the new hub be given the go ahead. Councillors normally follow these recommendations. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/12/01/chinese-super-embassy-blocked-london-blow-xi-jinping/) The move will pile more pressure on London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who have a six-week challenge period in which they could decide to call in the verdict. Any public inquiry could take up to 18 months to resolve. Beijing’s new “super embassy” in London would be the largest of its kind in Europe and only around three miles away from Westminster.

Newsline: US, Ukrainian embassies, other sites targeted by letter bombs in Spain

The United States’ embassy in Madrid has received a letter similar to the five letter-bombs sent to the Ukrainian embassy to Spain and other targets in the country, according to La Sexta TV station. Deputy Interior Minister Rafael Perez told reporters earlier on Thursday that the letter bombs received by five other offices, including the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid, a Spanish weapon manufacturer and three government institutions were sent from within the country. “It appears that they were all sent from within the country but we are basing this on early visual inspections without yet having an in-depth technical report,” he said. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/12/1/us-embassy-five-other-sites-targeted-by-letter-bombs-in-spain) The interior ministry said on Thursday that an “envelope with pyrotechnic material” addressed to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had been received on November 24 and disarmed by his security team. A “similar” package was received by the Ukrainian embassy on Wednesday was addressed to Ambassador Serhii Pohoreltsev and exploded when it was opened by a security official.

Newsline: London councillors to vote on Chinese Embassy move

A decision about whether the Chinese Embassy can move to a site near the Tower of London is to be made later. Chinese officials want to move to Royal Mint Court from its current location in Portland Place, central London. Tower Hamlets Borough Council has received 51 objection letters from residents citing security, privacy and safety concerns. The planning application said it would deliver “significant improvements” to the area and create up to 20 jobs. (https://news.yahoo.com/chinese-embassy-tower-hamlets-councillors-055605106.html) Tower Hamlets’ Strategic Development Committee will either approve, refuse or defer the plans at a meeting later. A deferment would happen if committee members raised concerns and requested more detail beyond the scope of the planning application.

Newsline: Protests near Chinese diplomatic missions seen around the world

Antigovernment protests in China are stirring sympathetic activity near Chinese diplomatic missions and on university campuses around the world, adding an international dimension to a sensitive political moment. Demonstrators on Tuesday night packed the sidewalk across the street from China’s New York consulate in such numbers that they disrupted traffic and forced organizers to retreat to a nearby pier. Leading the crowd, a speaker said, “Release protesters…stand with people in China.” That was followed by someone shouting “Xi Jinping” and the crowd erupted with repeated calls of “Step down.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-protests-mushroom-around-the-world-11669811448) The expressions of solidarity from New York to the streets of Istanbul are emanating from China’s vast diaspora, and specifically those frustrated with Xi Jinping‘s authoritarian leadership of the country, participants say. A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded indirectly when asked about protests on Tuesday, saying the country enjoys rule of law.

Newsline: Blast at Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid Injured One Employee

Spanish police said an employee at the Ukrainian embassy in Madrid was injured on Wednesday in an explosion that occurred while he was handling a letter. The staff member suffered light injuries went to hospital under his own steam, police added. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-11-30/spanish-police-say-blast-at-ukrainian-embassy-injured-one-employee) Ukraine’s embassy in Madrid was not immediately reachable.

Newsline: Israeli ambassador to India apologises after filmmaker’s remarks spark uproar

An Israeli filmmaker’s criticism of a film depicting the exodus of India’s majority Hindu population from the disputed region of Kashmir has sparked an uproar in India and prompted an apology from the Israeli ambassador. Nadav Lapid, an Israeli filmmaker who headed the jury at a government-organised film festival in the Indian state of Goa, said during closing ceremony that “The Kashmir Files” was a “propaganda movie” that had no place at a film festival, drawing a wave of criticism and outrage on social media. The film, a runaway hit in India when released in March this year, tells the fictional story of a student who discovers his Kashmiri Hindu parents were killed by Islamist militants – and not in an accident as his grandfather had told him. Lapid’s name was trending on Twitter for most of Tuesday and several users accused him of dismissing the portrayal of the exodus of Hindus from Muslim-majority Kashmir. Naor Gilon, Israel’s ambassador to India, Sri Lanka and Bhutan, apologised on Twitter. “As a human being I feel ashamed and want to apologise to our hosts for the bad manner in which we repaid them for their generosity and friendship,” he said. “I’m no film expert but I do know that it’s insensitive and presumptuous to speak about historic events before deeply studying them and which are an open wound in India because many of the involved are still around and still paying a price,” Gilon said in a thread addressed to Lapid. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/israeli-ambassador-to-india-apologises-after-filmmakers-remarks-spark-uproar-1213797) Reuters was not able to reach Lapid for a comment. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised the film, which focuses on the violent upheaval of 1989-90 in Kashmir. Supporters of Modi and the BJP have endorsed the movie while videos published online show people in movie audiences cheering, shouting slogans and waving Indian flags during screenings.

Newsline: UK summons Chinese ambassador over BBC journalist arrest

China’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned to the Foreign Office after a BBC journalist was allegedly kicked and beaten by Chinese police while covering anti-lockdown protests. The department has called on Zheng Zeguang for a “full and thorough explanation” of the detention of Edward Lawrence. Chinese officials have claimed that Mr Lawrence “didn’t voluntarily present” his press credentials. (https://news.yahoo.com/uk-foreign-office-minister-summons-154117882.html) The broadcaster said that police claimed Mr Lawrence was arrested in case he caught Covid from the crowd.

Newsline: Russian diplomat says prisoner swap with US still possible

Russia and the United States have repeatedly been on the verge of an agreement on a prisoner exchange, a senior Russian diplomat said Tuesday, adding that a deal is still possible before the year’s end. Asked by reporters whether a swap is possible before the year’s end, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov responded that “there always is a chance.” “Regrettably, there have been a few occasions when it seemed that a decision in favor of it was about to be made, but it never happened,” he said without elaborating. “If that happened, iT would undoubtedly send a positive signal that not everything is so utterly hopeless in Russian-U.S. relations,” Ryabkov added. He reiterated Moscow’s call for the U.S. to discuss the issue discreetly and refrain from making public statements. He lamented that “Washington has been abusing ‘loudspeaker diplomacy’ instead of a quiet one, which didn’t help us to do business.” (https://www.fox10phoenix.com/news/brittney-griner-russian-diplomat-says-prisoner-swap-with-us-remains-possible) The Biden administration has been trying for months to negotiate the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American jailed in Russia, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan, including through a possible prisoner swap with Moscow.

Newsline: US embassy in China warns lockdowns may intensify amid protests

The U.S. embassy in China released a statement Monday morning calling on U.S. citizens in the country to “keep a 14-day supply of medications, bottled water, and food for yourself and any members of your household.” “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities have expanded COVID-19 prevention restrictions and control measures as outbreaks occur. These measures may include residential quarantines, mass testing, closures, transportation disruptions, lockdowns, and possible family separation. Ambassador Burns and other Mission officials have regularly raised our concerns on many of these issues directly with senior PRC officials and will continue to do so,” the statement reads. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/warning-us-embassy-china-signals-lockdowns-are-likely-intensify-amid-protests) David Tafuri, a former State Department official and foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign, says the State Department is trying to get ahead of the situation and prevent citizens from being caught up in a tense situation inside China.