Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 30, 2022

Newsline: U.S. Pressured to Open Consulates in Jerusalem and Western Sahara

In talks this week with the top American diplomat, Arab leaders made clear they wanted a concrete sign of the Biden administration’s support: the opening of U.S. consulates in both Jerusalem and the disputed territory of Western Sahara. But Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken studiously avoided any public commitment as to when those diplomatic missions might become a reality, if ever. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/30/world/africa/jerusalem-western-sahara-us-consulates.html) The fate of the consulates already promised by the United States — one to serve Palestinians in Jerusalem and the other in Western Sahara — has hung over the Biden administration since its earliest days. Both would require President Biden to decide whether to stick with dramatic foreign policy shifts brought about by the Trump administration, or reverse them and face a diplomatic and political backlash from longtime allies. Neither were mentioned in the Biden administration’s $1 billion spending plan for construction, maintenance and security at embassies and diplomatic compounds around the world in 2023 — casting doubt that they would be open before the end of next year. That made Mr. Blinken’s silence on the subject all the more notable when it surfaced after meetings in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, and in Rabat, Morocco’s capital.

Newsline: US top diplomat says Ukraine war has ‘deadly’ impact on Arab region

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having a “deadly” impact in the Arab world, particularly through spiralling wheat prices, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Algiers Wednesday. He was speaking on the final leg of a trip that began with an unprecedented Israeli-Arab summit in the Negev desert, attended by Blinken and the foreign ministers of Israel, Egypt and three Arab countries that normalised ties with the Jewish state in 2020. Import-dependent North African countries face what Blinken described as a “disaster” as the war in Ukraine sends shock-waves through global wheat and fuel markets. Both Russia and Ukraine are major wheat producers, while Moscow is a major global supplier of oil and gas. The Russian military campaign has had “deadly consequences for citizens in the region”, he told journalists in the capital of Algeria. “It’s having a direct impact on their lives right now, particularly with regard to rising food prices… especially wheat,” he said. (https://news.yahoo.com/ukraine-war-deadly-impact-arab-180647438.html) Blinken flew in Wednesday morning from Algeria’s arch-rival Morocco, which in 2020 normalised ties with Israel under a deal that sparked renewed tensions between Algiers and Rabat over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Newsline: Top Russian diplomat pledges to build new “democratic world order” with China

Beijing and Moscow advanced a vision of a new world order Wednesday as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made his first visit to key ally China since his country launched its invasion of Ukraine. Moscow’s top diplomat landed in the eastern city of Huangshan early Wednesday for a series of meetings about the future of Afghanistan, but Russia’s bloody assault on its neighbor was likely to loom large over proceedings. On Wednesday, Lavrov painted a picture of a new “world order,” saying the world was “living through a very serious stage in the history of international relations.” “We, together with you, and with our sympathizers will move towards a multipolar, just, democratic world order,” Lavrov said in a video released by the Russian foreign ministry ahead of a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The two ministers were shown on Chinese state TV in face masks bumping elbows in front of their national flags. A readout from the Chinese foreign ministry quoted Wang Yi as saying “China-Russia relations have withstood the new test of the changing international situation, maintained the correct direction of progress and shown tenacious development momentum.” (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-says-building-democratic-world-141002092.html) Beijing has refused to condemn the invasion and has provided a level of diplomatic cover for an increasingly isolated Russia. U.S. officials have accused China of signaling “willingness” to provide military and economic aid to Russia.

Newsline: Slovakia cuts Russia’s embassy staff by 35

Slovakia has ordered Russia’s embassy to cut its staff by 35, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Wednesday, citing unacceptable activity by another Russian diplomat. The aim of the move was to “set a maximum number of diplomatic and service passport holders at this (Russian) mission,” spokesperson Juraj Tomaga said in a statement. (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/slovakia-cuts-russias-embassy-staff-by-35-foreign-ministry-2022-03-30/) The move cuts the embassy staff roughly to a half of its previous size, according to calculations in Slovak media. On March 14, Slovakia expelled three Russian embassy staff.

Newsline: Ukrainian ambassador said “no idea” what Abramovich was doing at peace talks

Ukrainian ambassador said he had “no idea” what Roman Abramovich was doing at peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, the BBC reported. The Russian oligarch was seen attending negotiations between the two countries in Istanbul, Turkey, on Tuesday. He was pictured sitting at the back of the room where the talks were held. Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, told the BBC: “I have no idea what Mr. Abramovich is claiming or doing. He is not a part of the negotiation team.” “I don’t know if he’s buying his way out somehow or if he’s really useful, that’s very difficult to tell,” Prystaiko added. It is unclear whether Prystaiko was at the talks himself. (https://news.yahoo.com/ukrainian-ambassador-says-no-idea-095811960.html) The nature of Abramovich’s role in the talks is also unclear. Both Russia and Ukraine have said he was not an official member of their negotiation teams, the BBC reported.

Newsline: US State Department tells citizens to leave Russia “immediately”

The State Department has issued a travel advisory warning that Moscow “may single out and detain U.S. citizens in Russia” and repeating earlier warnings for Americans not to travel to the country. The State Department warning pointed out that, “U.S. citizens should note that U.S. credit and debit cards no longer work in Russia, and options to electronically transfer funds from the United States are extremely limited as a result of sanctions imposed on Russian banks. There are reports of cash shortages within Russia. “Limited commercial flight options and overland routes by car and bus are still open and available. If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible. The U.S. Embassy has severe limitations on its ability to assist U.S. citizens, and conditions, including transportation options, may suddenly become even more limited.” (https://news.yahoo.com/u-warns-russia-may-detain-122629561.html) The warning was “due to the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces” as well as the potential for harassment of U.S. citizens by Russian authorities, the travel advisory said, repeating calls for Americans traveling or living in Russia to leave “immediately.”

Newsline: China, U.S., Russia and Pakistan to hold talks on Afghanistan

A top U.S. diplomat will meet this week in China to discuss issues in Afghanistan with his Chinese, Russian and Pakistani counterparts, the Chinese foreign ministry and the State Department said on Tuesday. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Afghanistan-turmoil/China-U.S.-Russia-and-Pakistan-to-hold-talks-on-Afghanistan) The U.S. understands that China has invited Taliban representatives to the talks in Tunxi, a State Department spokesperson said. Chinese special envoy for Afghanistan Yue Xiaoyong will host the meeting, said Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Tunxi for the talks, Interfax news agency cited a ministry spokeswoman as saying late on Tuesday. Tom West, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, will attend the talks of the so-called Extended Troika: the three world powers plus Pakistan, the State Department spokesperson said.

Newsline: German diplomats seeking access to citizen jailed in Cuba

Germany’s Foreign Ministry said its diplomats are working to get access to a German citizen imprisoned in Cuba since last year. Supporters say Luis Frómeta Compte, a resident of Dresden who has both German and Cuban citizenship, was arrested on July 11, 2021, after filming an anti-government demonstration during a vacation in Cuba. “The German embassy in Havana is dealing with the case and is in close contact with the Cuban authorities, the lawyer and the relatives of the person concerned,” the Foreign Ministry said. The ministry and the embassy “are making intensive efforts to gain consular access to the person concerned,” it added. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/german-diplomats-seeking-access-to-citizen-jailed-in-cuba/2022/03/29/962510f4-af65-11ec-9dbd-0d4609d44c1c_story.html) According to the International Society for Human Rights, Frómeta Compte was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in December for causing public outrage and inciting unrest. The group said the 59-year-old plans to go on hunger strike to protest his incarceration.