Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 15, 2022

Newsline: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Killed Syria Diplomacy

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting collapse of U.S. and European diplomatic relations with Moscow mean Syria diplomacy is now all but dead. Small signs that diplomacy may have been poised for renewed investment in early 2022 now feel like a distant memory. (https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/15/russia-ukraine-syria-war-diplomacy-assad-putin/) The international community thus finds itself in a distinctly new strategic environment, where long-standing multilateral institutions and mechanisms traditionally relied on to mediate and de-escalate are more or less impotent. The United Nations Security Council had little value before the invasion of Ukraine, but it is now worthless. To make matters worse, Russia’s war on Ukraine looks set to trigger a humanitarian crisis in Syria that will far surpass anything witnessed over the past 11 years. While the world focuses on the escalating suffering in Ukraine, Syria’s collapse into even deeper misery risks being ignored, catalyzing another wave of destabilizing effects across the Middle East.

Newsline: Russia escalates diplomatic war against US

Russia has accused the United States of helping Ukraine develop nuclear weapons in an escalation in the diplomatic war but has not provided any proof. Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, claimed US advisors were helping Kyiv develop biological and nuclear weapons, potentially raising the risk of nuclear war, according to state-run news organisation Ria Novosti. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-ukraine-united-states-nuclear-weapons-180245345.html) Patrushev did not provide any evidence to back up his comment. The US has denied previous Russian accusations that Washington is operating biowarfare labs in Ukraine, calling the claims “laughable” and suggesting Moscow may be laying the groundwork to use a chemical or biological weapon.

Newsline: U.S. Diplomats Struggle to Get Paid

A new payroll system at the State Department introduced last year is causing thousands of U.S. diplomats, including some working in war zones, to struggle with problems receiving their salary, according to interviews and documents. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-diplomats-some-in-war-zones-struggle-to-get-paid-11647349202) Diplomats say they have had to spend time tracking down payments instead of doing their jobs, and that a lack of urgency among leadership is hurting morale. U.S. diplomats working in war zones and other high-risk locations are often among those affected, because their paychecks include extra pay for taking on dangerous and difficult roles.

Newsline: Mission possible for Israel’s relocated Ukraine embassy

Since decamping from Kyiv to Lviv in late February, and then onwards to its current home in a Soviet-style Polish border town hotel, Israel’s Embassy to Ukraine has faced challenges both related and unrelated to the war. Despite doubling as a regional base for Polish police forces, the hotel – its name is being withheld at the Israeli embassy’s request – is eerily unlit and quiet. That is, until you open the door to the embassy’s situation room. Exhaustion is apparent on every face, but the energy is palpable. Here, an overworked staff buzzes with purpose, coordinating consular services, humanitarian aid, and outreach back to Kyiv. Nearly three weeks into the war, the flow of Israelis out of Ukraine is slowing, but challenges continue to mount. The acting head of the Israeli mission to Ukraine, Simona Halperin, was diagnosed with COVID-19 minutes before The Times of Israel arrived at the hotel on Monday. Halperin, who leads the Foreign Ministry’s Eurasia bureau from Jerusalem, is in the role because Michael Brodsky, Israel’s envoy to Kyiv, was in a car accident and had to be repatriated to Israel. (https://www.timesofisrael.com/mission-possible-for-israels-relocated-ukraine-embassy-despite-car-crash-covid/) Operationally, the mission’s continued ability to help Israelis obtain the documents they need to leave Ukraine rests upon the goodwill of the Ukrainian authorities.

Newsline: France offers embassy asylum to Russian anti-war protester

President Emmanuel Macron said France is offering protection from the French embassy and asylum to the anti-war activist who interrupted a news program on Russia’s state television, holding a poster protesting the war in Ukraine. Macron said he will “propose this solution in a direct and very concrete manner” to Russian President Vladimir Putin in their next phone call. He condemned any detention of journalists and hoped that Ovsyannikova’s situation will be clarified “as soon as possible.” (https://www.bostonherald.com/2022/03/15/live-updates-zelenskyy-ukraine-realizes-it-cant-join-nato/) An independent human rights group that monitors political arrests identified the woman as Marina Ovsyannikova. The group, OVD-Info, posted on its website that Ovsyannikova, who identified herself as an employee of the station, was taken into police custody.

Newsline: Iran top diplomat heads to Russia, blames US

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will head to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart, the Iranian foreign ministry has announced, as it doubled down on its position that the United States is preventing an agreement in the nuclear deal talks held in Vienna. Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatbizadeh told reporters on Monday that Amirabdollahian’s meeting with Sergey Lavrov will mainly focus on the discussions in the Austrian capital to restore the Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known. The spokesman stressed that reports by Western media that the talks are mostly held up by Russia’s demand are part of the US strategy. “Downgrading what is happening in Vienna to one element – meaning Russia’s demand – is what the US wants so everyone would forget its own responsibilities. No one must forget that the party responsible for the fact that we are still at the point of non-agreement is the US,” he said. “All the issues are on the US basket, and we announce that if Washington adopts a suitable political decision today, delegations can return to Vienna tomorrow,” Khatibzadeh said, adding that Russia and China have had the most supportive attitude since the start and Iran was confident that that would continue. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/14/iran-blames-us-for-jcpoa-delays-as-top-diplomat-heads-to-russia) Khatibzadeh said the pause in the talks announced by European coordinators on Friday does not signal an impasse. He also portrayed Russia’s last-minute demand that sanctions related to its invasion of Ukraine will not affect its future dealings with Iran, pointing to other proposals brought on the table by the various negotiating sides since the beginning of the talks in April 2021.

Newsline: Ambassador says China will never attack Ukraine

China will never attack Ukraine but will support it economically and politically. “China is a friendly country for the Ukrainian people. As an ambassador, I can responsibly say that China will forever be a good force for Ukraine, both economically and politically. We will always respect your state, we will develop relations on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. We will respect the path chosen by Ukrainians because this is the sovereign right of every nation,” Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ukraine Fan Xianrong said at a meeting in Lviv Regional Military Administration, Ukrinform cited the administration’s press service. (https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-polytics/3430195-china-will-never-attack-ukraine-ambassador-assures.html) He also said that the Chinese embassy had moved from Kyiv to Lviv and kept working there. “China will never attack Ukraine, we will help, in particular in the economic direction. In this situation, which you have now, we will act responsibly. We have seen how great the unity of the Ukrainian people is, and that means its strength,” he said.

Newsline: U.S. consulate in Mexico to temporarily close following gunfire after gang boss arrest

The U.S. consulate in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo will close temporarily after it was hit by gunfire overnight, and trailers were set ablaze on roads downtown after a gang leader’s arrest, authorities said on Monday. Shots against the consulate and Mexican military premises were reported amid gunfighting and pursuits in parts of the city that lies opposite Laredo, Texas, the ministry of public security in the state of Tamaulipas said in a statement. Suspected gang members paralyzed traffic in Nuevo Laredo early Monday by blocking roads with spike strips and setting fire to trailer trucks, the statement said. (https://news.yahoo.com/u-consulate-mexico-border-city-155809086.html) The U.S. consulate advised its employees to stay indoors and urged U.S. citizens to do the same or avoid the area. The consulate will be temporarily closed to the public, the Mexican government said later in a statement. A senior Tamaulipas official told Reuters there was at least one “collateral” fatality due to the violence. The gunfight followed the arrest of Juan Gerardo Trevino, or “El Huevo,” on Sunday, Mexico’s government said in a statement. Trevino is facing a U.S. extradition order for drug trafficking and money laundering, as well as state-level charges for murder, terrorism, extortion and criminal association, it added. He is also a U.S. citizen, a Mexican government official told Reuters. Trevino is on a list of the U.S. Border Patrol’s most wanted criminals, according to media reports.

Newsline: Chinese embassy in London denies U.S. claim that Russia asked for help in Ukraine

China denied on Tuesday claims by U.S. officials that Russia had sought military assistance in Ukraine and accused Washington of spreading “malicious disinformation” that risked escalating the conflict. “The U.S. has repeatedly spread malicious disinformation against China on the Ukraine issue,” the Chinese embassy in London told Reuters in a statement. “China has been playing a constructive role in promoting peace talks,” it added. (https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/china-denies-us-claim-that-russia-asked-for-help-in-ukraine-2784601) Several U.S. officials said Russia had asked China for military equipment after its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, sparking concern in the White House that Beijing might undermine Western efforts to help Ukrainian forces defend their country. The Kremlin denied any such request had been made.