Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 23, 2022

Newsline: Former top US diplomat Madeleine Albright dies at 84

Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright, the first female secretary of state, who arrived in the U.S. as a young girl from war-torn Czechoslovakia before becoming a political and feminist icon, died Wednesday at 84. Albright’s death from cancer was confirmed by her family in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday. (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/03/23/madeleine-albright-first-female-secretary-state-dies/7141509001/) Albright, who served as secretary of state from 1997 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton, pushed for NATO expansion eastward into the former Soviet bloc and helped lead the NATO bombing campaign in 1999 to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. She previously served as Clinton’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997. Ned Price, the State Department’s chief spokesman, called Albright a “trailblazer,” adding President Joe Biden and his chief diplomat Antony Blinken “have been apprised of this” and said the U.S. diplomatic corps was grieving her death. News of Albright’s death came as Biden was aboard Air Force One en route to a NATO summit in Brussels.

Newsline: Saudi ambassador to return to Lebanon

The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon will return to Lebanon by the start of Ramadan next week, Lebanese newspaper al-Joumhouria reported on Wednesday, after Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati affirmed the country’s commitment to restore relations with Gulf states on Tuesday. In a statement on Tuesday, Mikati wrote that he had spoken with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah about restoring normal relations between Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). “I renew the commitment of the Lebanese government to take the necessary and required measures to enhance cooperation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council,” Mikati wrote in the statement. (https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/article-702083) The Lebanese prime minister stressed the need to end all political, military, security and media activities originating from Lebanon that affect the “sovereignty, security and stability” of Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries.

Newsline: Russia to expel a number of U.S. diplomats

Russia told the United States on Wednesday it would throw out an unspecified number of American diplomats in response to a U.S. move to expel Russian staff from the permanent U.N. mission, Interfax news agency said. The agency also cited the Russian foreign ministry as telling the United States that any hostile actions against Moscow would provoke a decisive response. Last month Washington said it had expelled 12 Russian diplomats at the United Nations over national security concerns, describing them as “intelligence operatives”. Interfax said the Russian ministry had presented a senior U.S. diplomat in Moscow with a list of people who had to leave “in response to Washington’s expulsion of diplomats from the permanent U.N. mission in New York”. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-expel-number-american-diplomats-181358012.html) Interfax did not say how many people were affected or when they would have to leave.

Newsline: Nicaraguan Envoy Berates Own President As ‘Dictator’

The Nicaraguan ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) on Wednesday publicly lashed out at his country’s president, describing Daniel Ortega’s rule as a “dictatorship.” In a surprise speech to the Washington-based OAS, Arturo McFields said that “denouncing the dictatorship of my country is not easy, but continuing to remain silent and defending the indefensible is impossible. “I have to speak, even if my future and that of my family are uncertain,” he said. “There are no independent political parties, there are no credible elections, there is no separation of powers.” (https://www.ibtimes.com/nicaraguan-envoy-berates-own-president-dictator-3448388) Ortega, the 76-year-old former leftist guerrilla, won a fourth successive election last year after all his challengers were jailed, in a vote widely dismissed as a farce. Ortega’s government has started the process of pulling Nicaragua out of the OAS regional body, after it rejected his reelection.

Newsline: US Embassy in Russia finds detained basketballer in ‘good condition’

US officials visited basketballer Brittney Griner for the first time since she was arrested in Russia on drug charges. State Department spokesman Ned Price said she was in “good condition” when an official from the US Embassy visited her on Wednesday. “Within the past couple hours, an official from our embassy has been granted consular access to Brittney Griner,” Price said on CNN on Wednesday. (https://news.yahoo.com/brittney-griner-good-condition-russia-155308542.html) “We were able to check on her condition. We will continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network to see to it that she is treated fairly. That is a message we will continue to convey in no uncertain terms to the Russian Federation.”

Newsline: Russia ally Belarus tells Ukraine to cut diplomatic staff

Close Russia ally Belarus has told Ukraine to cut its diplomatic presence in the country citing unfriendly actions and meddling in its internal affairs, the Belarusian foreign ministry said on Wednesday. (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/belarus-tells-some-ukrainian-diplomats-leave-belta-2022-03-23/) Russia has used Belarusian territory as a staging post for its attack on Ukraine and the Ukrainian president’s office on Sunday warned it saw a high risk of an attack on western Ukraine’s Volyn region being launched from Belarus.

Newsline: Poland expels 45 Russian diplomats

Poland is expelling 45 Russian diplomats suspected of working for Russian intelligence, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday. Russia said the accusations were baseless. “In total, 45 people with varying diplomatic status… were ordered to leave the territory of the Republic of Poland within 5 days,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lukasz Jasina told a news conference. One person had been given 48 hours to leave, he added. (https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/poland-expels-45-russian-diplomats-official-says-2790215) The 45 diplomats being expelled represented around half of those currently working at the embassy, he said. Earlier, Special Services Spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn told reporters that 45 people had been identified by Poland’s Internal Security Agency as working for Russian intelligence. The Russian ambassador to Warsaw was summoned to the foreign ministry. Afterwards, he said that there is no basis for the accusations made against the officials.

Newsline: China takes a backseat in international diplomacy over Ukraine

China has repeatedly called for peace talks in Ukraine. What it has not done is press Russia to negotiate an end to a war that has already cost thousands of lives, displaced millions, and threatened to disrupt the world’s economy and even food security. (https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/03/22/world/china-takes-backseat-international-diplomacy-over-ukraine/) Despite calls from other world leaders to play a more proactive role, China has instead tried to keep its distance. It has urged peace but not stepped up to mediate or organize talks, leaving such efforts to far smaller powers, including France, Turkey, and Israel.

Newsline: Russia’s ambassador in Indonesia says Putin plans to attend G20 summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to attend a G20 summit being hosted by Indonesia later this year, Russia’s ambassador in Jakarta said on Wednesday, following calls by some members for the country to be barred from the group. “Not only G20, many organisations are trying to expel Russia….the reaction of the West is absolutely disproportional,” ambassador Lyudmila Vorobieva told a news conference on Wednesday. (https://news.yahoo.com/russias-ambassador-indonesia-says-putin-051817476.html) The United States and its Western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain within the Group of Twenty (G20) grouping of major economies following its invasion of Ukraine, sources involved in the discussions told Reuters.

Newsline: Greek diplomat says sanctions aimed at regime change in Russia

The globally coordinated sanctions regime against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine is aimed at regime change in Moscow, a top Greek diplomat told The Hill in an interview in Washington. Greek Alternate Foreign Minister Varvitsiotis Miltiadis praised President Biden for corralling democracies to impose coordinated sanctions, but warned Turkey’s absence on some of the most punishing measures risks undermining the global push to punish Putin. Athen’s holds long-standing concern over Ankara’s behavior in the eastern Mediterranean and within the NATO alliance in general, but Miltiadis was in Washington urging policy makers to more firmly press Turkey to align with the West. “If we don’t drag [Turkey] into the sanction regime, then Russia will not feel as heavy [pressure from] the package of these sanctions that have already been imposed,” Miltiadis said in an interview at the Greek embassy last week. (https://news.yahoo.com/sanctions-aimed-regime-change-russia-190750877.html) Secretary of State Antony Blinken has earlier said that the coordinated sanctions are not about regime change, telling CBS in an interview on March 6 “the Russian people have to decide who they want to lead them.” But Miltiadis emphasized that the sanctions are aimed at stoking the opposition in Russia.