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Archive for February 1, 2022

Newsline: US Consulate issues warning on Mexican resorts

In the wake of the recent killing of two Canadian visitors in an outdoor dining area at a five-star hotel in Playa del Carmen on Jan. 21 and the fatal shooting of a bar manager days later at Mamita’s Beach Club six miles away, the U.S. Consulate General in Merida has issued a security alert for U.S. citizens traveling in the region. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/tips/us-consulate-issues-warning-on-cancun-playa-del-carmen-and-tulum/ar-AATk00e?li=BBorjTa) The alert does not specifically mention the shooting that occurred Jan. 21 at the Hotel Xcaret in Playa del Carmen, about 45 miles south of Cancun. The gunfire took place near an outdoor dining area, leaving guests scrambling for cover. The two deceased men had criminal records including drug trafficking charges, according to the Quintana Roo state prosecutor’s office. There have reportedly been arrests in the case. Located on the Caribbean side of Mexico, Quintana Roo has generally been considered safe for tourists, though there have been several incidents of violence linked to drug groups in recent months. In October, two tourists were killed, and three others injured, in gunfire at a restaurant in Tulum. In November, visitors at the Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun in Puerto Morelos scrambled to avoid gunfire during a shootout on the beach.

Newsline: EU Diplomats Say Members of Mali’s Junta to Be Blacklisted

The European Union has agreed to impose travel bans and asset freezes on five members of Mali’s junta after the military rulers went back on an agreement to organise elections in February, three diplomats said. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-02-01/eu-to-blacklist-five-members-of-malis-junta-diplomats-say) The measures, which have political support of all 27 EU governments and should take effect later this month, follow a raft of restrictions against Mali by the ECOWAS grouping of West African states that has condemned the transitional military government’s attempts to extend its rule. The names of the five individuals to be sanctioned were not immediately available. The diplomats said they were junta officials also targeted by ECOWAS. Mali’s foreign and defence ministers will not be targeted in order to keep diplomatic channels open, the diplomats said. The EU travel bans and asset freezes are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the junta in Bamako but seek to make good on the bloc’s promise to support ECOWAS, even if the measures are more limited than those of the regional bloc. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Friday that Mali’s junta was “illegitimate” amid escalating tensions between the West African state and its European partners following two coups. That prompted Mali to expel France’s ambassador on Monday, giving him 72 hours to leave, and marking a low in relations after the junta went back on its agreement to organise elections in February. It proposes holding power until 2025.

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Newsline: Cash-Strapped Lebanon Tells Diplomats to Find Donors to Fund Embassies

Cash-strapped Lebanon has told embassies to look for donors to help cover their running costs, as it falls behind on paying diplomats’ salaries and contemplates shutting missions abroad. A foreign ministry circular, dated Jan. 25 and reviewed by Reuters, asks foreign missions to seek donations from the Lebanese diaspora, and respond to its request within two weeks. The ministry is studying closing down a number of missions “as an urgent financial measure adopted by a large number of states swept by similar financial crises,” the circular said. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-02-01/cash-strapped-lebanon-tells-diplomats-to-find-donors-to-fund-embassies) The foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for additional information about the document and the financial situation at its embassies. Two Lebanese diplomatic sources told Reuters that employees of foreign missions had not been paid their salaries for the month of January. One source said they had been told they would receive them in the next week.

Newsline: Russia, US exchange accusations over Ukraine at UN

Russia accused the West on Monday of “whipping up tensions” over Ukraine and said the U.S. had brought “pure Nazis” to power in Kyiv as the U.N. Security Council held a stormy and bellicose debate on Moscow’s troop buildup near its southern neighbor. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield shot back that Russia’s growing military force of more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders was “the largest mobilization” in Europe in decades, adding that there has been a spike in cyberattacks and Russian disinformation. “And they are attempting, without any factual basis, to paint Ukraine and Western countries as the aggressors to fabricate a pretext for attack,” she said. Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the U.S. of interfering in his country’s internal affairs and seeking “a classic example of megaphone diplomacy.” Thomas-Greenfield countered that the U.S. has held over 100 private meetings in the past few weeks with Russian officials and European and Ukrainian colleagues and “it’s now time” for a discussion in public. (https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/russia-us-exchange-accusations-over-ukraine-at-un/ar-AATl2TM) The harsh exchanges in the Security Council came as Moscow lost an attempt to block the meeting and reflected the gulf between the two nuclear powers. It was the first open session where all protagonists in the Ukraine crisis spoke publicly, even though the U.N.’s most powerful body took no action. Hours later, the Russian government sent a written response to a U.S. proposal aimed at deescalating the crisis, according to three Biden administration officials. The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity. A State Department official declined to offer details of the response, saying it “would be unproductive to negotiate in public” and that they would leave it up to Russia to discuss the counterproposal. Although more high-level diplomacy is expected this week, talks between the U.S. and Russia have so far failed to ease tensions in the crisis, with the West saying Moscow is preparing for an invasion. Russia denies it is planning to attack. It demands pledges that Ukraine will never join NATO, a halt to the deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders and a rollback of the alliance’s forces from Eastern Europe. NATO and the U.S. call those nonstarters.

Newsline: U.S. State Department orders diplomats’ families to leave Belarus

The State Department ordered the family members of U.S. government staff in Belarus to evacuate on Monday, citing the “unusual and concerning Russian military buildup along Belarus’ border with Ukraine.” “Due to an increase in unusual and concerning Russian military activity near the border with Ukraine, U.S. citizens located in or considering travel to Belarus should be aware that the situation is unpredictable and there is heightened tension in the region,” the State Department said in a travel advisory. “The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Belarus is already severely limited due to Belarusian government limitations on U.S. Embassy staffing.” (https://news.yahoo.com/state-department-orders-diplomats-families-010243638.html) Why it matters: The advisory comes just over a week after the State Department ordered a similar evacuation from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, prompting the Ukrainian government to accuse the U.S. of causing a panic over the threat of a possible Russian invasion. U.S. officials have warned that Russia may be using joint military exercises inside Belarus as cover for an invasion of Ukraine from the north, potentially allowing Moscow to target nearby Kyiv. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield warned Monday that the U.S. has evidence Russia plans to add an additional 30,000 troops near the Belarus-Ukraine border by early February.

Newsline: Russia’s embassy says will not back down in face of US sanctions threats

Russia’s embassy in Washington said Tuesday that Moscow will not back down in the face of US sanctions threats over Ukraine, ahead of a phone call between the top US and Russian diplomats. “We are not going to back away and stand at attention, listening to the threats of US sanctions,” the embassy said on Facebook, adding that it is “Washington, not Moscow, that generates tensions.” The embassy said the troops do “not threaten anyone” and that it is Russia’s “sovereign right” to move its armed forces on its territory. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/02/01/russia-ukraine-news-boris-johnson-putin-invasion-nato-latest/) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold fresh telephone talks on Ukraine Tuesday. The White House said Monday that it is ready to impose sanctions on President Vladimir Putin’s “inner circle” if an attack on Ukraine goes ahead. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned Mr Putin of a massive coordinated Western sanctions response should he invade Ukraine.