Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Russia scolds British ambassador over ‘offensive’ UK comments on nuclear weapons

Russia said on Thursday it had summoned the British ambassador to voice a strong protest against “offensive” British statements, including about alleged Russian threats to use nuclear weapons. The Russian Foreign Ministry said a strong protest was expressed to Ambassador Deborah Bronnert over “the frankly boorish statements of the British leadership regarding Russia”. It said Bronnert was handed a memorandum stating that “offensive rhetoric from representatives of the UK authorities is unacceptable.” The ministry said Russia had told her it objected to British statements containing “deliberately false information, in particular about alleged Russian ‘threats to use nuclear weapons’”. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/russia-scolds-british-ambassador-over-offensive-uk-comments-on-nuclear-weapons-1050761) It was not immediately clear what specific remarks the statement was referring to. Britain has voiced strong support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and provided it with weapons, making it a frequent target of Kremlin criticism.

Newsline: Diplomats ironing out deal between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt on Red Sea islands

Diplomats and lawyers from the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are working on a complex choreography of agreements, understandings and letters that will allow a deal around two strategic Red Sea islands to be inked ahead of President Biden’s visit to the Middle East next month, three Israeli officials told me. The deal would be a significant foreign policy achievement for the Biden administration in the Middle East and could open the way for a gradual warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. But because Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t have diplomatic relations and can’t sign official bilateral agreements directly, the countries involved are trying to use creative legal and diplomatic solutions to try to indirectly finalize a deal. Despite public protests in Egypt, the Egyptian parliament in June 2017 and the country’s supreme court in March 2018 approved a deal to transfer sovereignty back to Saudi Arabia. But the deal needed buy-in from Israel because of the 1979 peace treaty. Israel gave in principle its approval to transfer the islands back to Saudi Arabia pending an agreement between Cairo and Riyadh on continuing the work of the multinational force of observers who are in charge of patrolling the islands and ensuring that freedom of navigation in the strait remains unhindered. The Biden administration for months has been quietly mediating among Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on a deal that will finalize the transfer of the islands from Egypt to Saudi control. At the center of the mediation efforts is the issue of how to meet the Saudi demand that the U.S.-led multinational force leave the islands while maintaining the same security arrangements and political commitments the Israelis need, as Axios previously reported. (https://www.axios.com/2022/06/29/israel-saudi-arabia-egypt-red-sea-deal-normalization) Israeli officials want to make sure any commitment the Egyptians made in their peace agreement with Israel is still binding for the Saudis, especially the agreement to allow Israeli ships through the Straits of Tiran. The Saudi and Egyptian embassies in the U.S. did not respond to requests for comment.

Newsline: Russia will respond to Bulgaria’s ‘hostile’ expulsion of diplomats

The Russian Embassy to Sofia said that Bulgaria’s decision to expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff was a hostile action to which Moscow would respond accordingly. In a statement on its Telegram channel, Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova said that declaring 34 diplomats and 36 staff personae non gratae together as a list was an “unprecedented hostile step.” “The government of the Russian Federation is reserving its right of reciprocal, possibly asymmetric response to such hostile actions,” she said. (https://whtc.com/2022/06/29/russia-will-respond-to-bulgarias-hostile-expulsion-of-diplomats-2/) Bulgaria said on Tuesday that it had expelled the diplomatic staff over espionage concerns.

Newsline: Canada Opens New Embassies In Eastern Europe

Canada said it would boost its diplomatic presence in central and eastern Europe as well as the Caucasus, opening four new embassies to “help counter Russia’s destabilizing activities” in the region, as the war in Ukraine drags on. “Canada is announcing that we are increasing our diplomatic footprint. Canada will be opening four new embassies in Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Armenia,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid. “This diplomatic expansion will help guide Canada’s response to evolving security threats, enhance political and economic cooperation to support European allies, and further counter the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and support Armenia in its democratic development,” the ministry said in a statement. (https://www.ibtimes.com/canada-opens-new-embassies-eastern-europe-amid-ukraine-war-3556548) The announcement came as Group of Seven and NATO leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet this week, with how best to support Kyiv in its battle with Moscow atop the agenda of both summits.

Newsline: Senior Chinese diplomat tells UN expansion of Nato into the Asia-Pacific will stir up conflict

A senior Chinese diplomat has warned that the Asia-Pacific region would face turmoil and conflict if Nato was extended there. China’s envoy to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, said Nato had caused trouble “in different parts of the world”, and should learn a lesson from the ongoing Ukraine war. “Nato’s five eastward expansions after the Cold War have not only failed to make Europe securer, but also sowed the seed of conflict,” Zhang said in a UN Security Council briefing on Ukraine on Tuesday. “The kind of turmoil and conflict that are affecting parts of the world must not be allowed to happen in the Asia-Pacific.” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/china-tells-un-expansion-nato-093000436.html) Zhang was speaking while Nato met in Madrid where the bloc is expected to release an updated strategic concept to replace the version adopted in 2010.

Newsline: Iran, US diplomats begin EU-led indirect nuclear deal talks in Qatar

Iran and the United States began indirect talks Tuesday in Qatar aimed at finding a way to save Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, met with European Union official Enrique Mora in Doha after earlier meeting Qatari officials with Tehran’s local ambassador. Mora will pass messages between the Americans and Iranians. Rob Malley, the U.S. special representative for Iran, arrived in Qatar on Monday night ahead of the talks. The U.S. Embassy in Qatar said Malley met with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani to discuss “joint diplomatic efforts to address issues with Iran,” but declined to immediately offer any other details about his trip. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it “welcomed” hosting the talks. It said the talks aimed to reestablish the deal “in a way that supports and enhances security, stability and peace in the region and opens new horizons for broader regional cooperation and dialogue with the Islamic Republic of Iran.” (https://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Iran-US-to-begin-indirect-nuclear-deal-talks-in-17270570.php) Iran and world powers agreed in 2015 to the nuclear deal, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord, raising tensions across the wider Middle East and sparking a series of attacks and incidents.

Newsline: Australia considering reopening Ukraine embassy

Australia is considering reopening its embassy in Kyiv, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Tuesday, as it looks to join several of its allies who have resumed operations after removing its diplomats over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We would like to have a presence on the ground there to assist and to be able to provide that on-ground presence,” Albanese told reporters in Madrid ahead of a NATO summit. “Australia is considering that … I’ll have more to say on that in coming days and weeks.” (https://news.yahoo.com/australia-considering-reopening-ukraine-embassy-232834458.html) Several NATO members including the United States have recently moved their embassies back to the Ukrainian capital in a show of solidarity after Russia invaded the country in February.

Newsline: Bulgaria expels 70 Russian embassy staff

Bulgaria’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it had asked Russia to withdraw 70 diplomatic staff by July 3, saying Russia should decrease the size of its embassy to match the Bulgarian representation in Moscow. (https://nationalpost.com/pmn/news-pmn/bulgaria-expels-70-russian-embassy-staff-foreign-ministry-says) “The first reason is reciprocity… Secondly, because of the activity carried out by Russian officials, which was determined by the competent Bulgarian authorities to be incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the ministry said in a statement.

Newsline: Mexican consul en route to Texas site where migrants found dead in trailer

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the Mexican consul was en route to the site where 42 people were found dead in a truck carrying migrants near San Antonio, Texas, Monday. (https://news.yahoo.com/mexican-consul-en-route-texas-015731804.html) Ebrard said in a tweet that the victims’ nationalities were still unknown. The Mexican General Consulate in San Antonio said on Twitter that it would provide aid to any Mexicans involved in the incident, if there were any. It also said Consul General Ruben Minutti was on the way to the scene.

Newsline: Delhi Afghanistan embassy not taking orders from Taliban

The Taliban is trying to establish its control over Afghanistan’s institutions, but there is a big grey area. Most of the country’s 70 or so diplomatic missions still functioning are doing so independently of the hardline regime – which isn’t recognised by other countries – and without any direct funding from Kabul. Visitors to the Afghan embassy in India’s capital – housed in a sprawling compound in the heart of the city’s diplomatic enclave – are greeted by a photograph of former president Ashraf Ghani when they enter the building. Mr Ghani fled Afghanistan last August as the Taliban closed in on the capital after the collapse of his government, which had been backed by the West. His photo also hangs on the wall of ambassador Farid Mamundzay’s office, which still has the black, red and green tricolour flag of the republic Mr Ghani used to head. “We have little co-ordination with the Taliban,” says Mr Mamundzay, whose staff continue to carry out functions like issuing visas and passports in the name of the republic they were appointed to serve. (https://news.yahoo.com/afghanistan-embassy-delhi-surviving-without-235154995.html) In the 10 months since they took power, the Taliban have sent ambassadors to only four countries: Russia, Pakistan, China and Turkmenistan. But even these countries haven’t accorded formal diplomatic recognition to Afghanistan’s new rulers.