Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 10, 2022

Newsline: South Korean diplomat attacked in New York

A South Korean diplomat was punched in the face in New York City on Wednesday night, police said. (https://abcnews.go.com/US/video/south-korean-diplomat-attacked-nyc-police-82801060) The assault was apparently unprovoked and the police described it as an “unprovoked” attack.

Newsline: Diplomatic talks aim to de-escalate standoff on Ukraine’s border

Western nations look for diplomatic avenues to ease the crisis around Ukraine. US President Joe Biden is expected to speak Friday with European and NATO leaders about Russia’s buildup of troops near Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the plans. Biden spoke Wednesday with Emmanuel Macron about the French President’s diplomatic efforts in Moscow — after which the Kremlin poured cold water on reports that the two leaders had agreed to de-escalate the tense standoff on Ukraine’s border. Press secretary Jen Psaki said she expected Biden “will speak with a number of other European counterparts as the week proceeds.” (https://edition.cnn.com/2022/02/10/europe/ukraine-russia-news-thursday-military-exercises-intl/index.html) French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview Thursday that a further round of talks between the countries in the so-called Normandy Format would be a “good sign.” The Normandy Format is a four-way conversation between representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France that has been trying to broker peace in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Talk has turned to the Minsk Agreement, which was hammered out during talks in 2015 but never fully implemented, as a possible way out of the current crisis. Advisers from all four countries are due to meet Thursday in Berlin to discuss tensions around Ukraine.

Newsline: US climate envoy visits Mexico amid power clash

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry arrived in Mexico for talks amid high tensions over Mexico’s plan to favor its state-owned electricity company and limit private and foreign firms that have invested in renewable energy. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to forge ahead with changes to Mexico’s power sector, increasing investment in fossil fuels while limiting private wind, natural gas and solar plants to a minority market share. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico expressed concerns about that on the eve of Kerry’s visit. “The government of the United States has repeatedly expressed concern over Mexico’s current proposal for the energy sector,” the embassy said in a statement. “Promoting the use of dirtier, antiquated and expensive technologies over efficient renewable alternatives would put consumers and the economy in general at a disadvantage.” (https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/us-climate-envoy-john-kerry-visits-mexico-amid-power-clash/ar-AATCQAr) That was apparently a reference to López Obrador’s defense of dirty state-owned coal and fuel-oil power plants.

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Newsline: EU top diplomat replies to Russia on behalf of all states

The European Union said on Thursday it had delivered a single letter in response to Russia’s proposals to member states on European security on behalf of the 27 foreign ministers of the bloc. The European Commission, the EU executive, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell decided to reply on behalf of all states to show unity. “The member states of the European Union agreed that the high representative should reply to the message by minister Lavrov in the name of 27,” a Commission spokesman told a regular briefing. (https://news.yahoo.com/eu-delivers-collective-reply-russian-115039352.html) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier on Thursday said a collective response from the EU to his correspondence to all 27 EU states at the end of January would lead to a breakdown in talks. EU diplomats told Reuters the letters sent by Lavrov were seen as a way to divide the 27-nation bloc, which has differing sympathies towards Moscow, as it considers economic sanctions on Russia in the case of a new Ukraine conflict. Russia’s embassy to the EU said in a statement that it had received the letter. The contents of the letters were not made public by either side but diplomats said they related to Russia’s concerns about security on it western borders and EU efforts to resolve tensions through diplomacy.

Newsline: Australian Embassy Worker Arrested in Bangkok Over Spy Cams Found in Women’s Bathrooms

A former employee of the Australian embassy in Bangkok is facing up to a decade in jail after secret spy cameras were discovered in women’s bathrooms located inside the high security government building. (https://www.vice.com/en/article/bvnyyw/australia-embassy-bangkok-spy-cam-scandal) The discovery, which was made late last year, raised questions and concerns about security lapses and privacy breaches in the government building. Australian media outlets reported that multiple cameras were planted facing women’s showers and toilet cubicles. A camera memory card containing images of female embassy staff was also found in a bathroom last year, according to ABC News.

Newsline: Senior Russian Diplomat Links Nuclear Arms Talks To Moscow’s European Security Demands

A top Russian diplomat says nuclear arms controls talks between Moscow and Washington will be largely guided by negotiations on security demands the Kremlin laid out in December amid an ongoing crisis with neighboring Ukraine. In an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency published, Vladimir Yermakov, the head of nuclear nonproliferation and controls at Russia’s Foreign Ministry, said the discussions over security guarantees have taken priority over strategic arms controls talks. “Our further dialogue with the Americans regarding the strategic stability, to a big extent, will depend on how the issues linked to security guarantees are solved. At this point, no understanding has been reached regarding the schedule of new meetings for the strategic dialogue,” Yermakov said. Yermakov reiterated Russia’s demand to the West about what he called the “inadmissibility” of NATO’s further eastward expansion and the “necessity to return the configuration of the North Atlantic alliance’s forces and details to the situation that was there in 1997.” (https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-arms-control-security-guarantees-nato/31691046.html) There are currently no new talks scheduled on strategic arms control.