Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 31, 2022

Newsline: U.S. to build $537 million consulate in Nigeria

The United States will build a $537 million consulate in the Nigerian megacity Lagos, the country’s commercial capital, as Washington strengthens economic and diplomatic relations with Africa’s most populous country. The U.S. is among the largest foreign investors and donors in Nigeria with annual trade between the two countries at over $10 billion, according to the State Department. (https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/us-build-537-million-consulate-nigerias-megacity-2022-03-31/) U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Leonard said the new consulate, to be built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean, would take five years to complete.

Newsline: U.S. Criticizes India as Russia Top Diplomat Visits Delhi

The U.S. and Australia criticized India for considering a Russian proposal that would undermine sanctions imposed by America and its allies, showing a deepening rift between the emerging security partners as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov traveled to Delhi for talks. “Now is the time to stand on the right side of history, and to stand with the United States and dozens of other countries, standing up for freedom, democracy and sovereignty with the Ukrainian people, and not funding and fueling and aiding President Putin’s war,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister who also spoke at the briefing, said it was important for democracies to work together “to keep the rules-based approach that we’ve had since the second world war.” (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/u-criticizes-india-over-russia-015533616.html) The comments reflect growing unease with India among fellow members of the Quad, a group of democracies seeking to counter China’s assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region that also includes the U.S., Australia and Japan. India is the world’s largest buyer of Russian weapons, and has also sought to buy cheap oil as fuel prices surge. While India has supported calls for a cease-fire and a diplomatic solution, it abstained at the United Nations on votes for draft resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion that were ultimately vetoed by Moscow.

Newsline: Slovenian embassy in Ukraine removes flag due to similarity with Russia’s

The Slovenian embassy in Kiev, which reopened earlier this week, has removed its flag because of its similarity with the Russian one, a representative in Ukraine said. Slovenian and Russian flags carry the same colours in the same order: white, blue and red, with the former bearing the country’s coat of arms which consists of stylised symbols of stars, mountains, sea and rivers, reports Xinhua news agency. “We raised the Slovenian and the European flags with pride when we returned to Kiev,” Bostjan Lesjak, Slovenian charge d’affaires in Kiev, told TV Slovenia. “But in the morning, representatives of the (Ukrainian) national guard, followed by representatives of the police, visited me and very politely asked me if we could temporary remove the Slovenian flag because it is too similar to the Russian one,” he said. (https://in.investing.com/news/slovenian-embassy-in-kiev-removes-flag-due-to-similarity-with-russias-3143459) Slovenia reopened its embassy in Kiev on Monday, about a month after the country evacuated all its diplomats from Ukraine on February 26. Slovenian Ambassador to Ukraine Tomaz Mencin continues to work from the Polish city of Rzeszow which lies close to the Ukrainian border.

Newsline: Philippine Consulate calls for NYC to be made ‘safe again’

The Philippine Consulate General in New York has called on authorities “to do more” following the recent attacks on two elderly Filipinos in Manhattan. (https://news.yahoo.com/philippine-consulate-calls-nyc-made-185034212.html) A 73-year-old Filipino man was walking to church along 8th Avenue and 40th Street in Manhattan on March 27 when a 44-year-old homeless man, identified as Dominic Staton, shoved him to the sidewalk. The victim suffered a swollen, black eye and bruises all over his body, according to ABC correspondent CeFaan Kim, who shared a video of the incident to his Twitter account. Staton, who reportedly has at least 10 prior arrests, was also accused of attempting another robbery on the same day. He was arrested and charged with assault, attempted robbery and attempted grand larceny. The next day, a 53-year-old Filipino man was beaten unconscious and robbed by another homeless man at a McDonald’s restaurant along 7th Avenue near 34th Street. The victim suffered wounds to his face and was reportedly rushed to the hospital.

Newsline: China’s foreign ministry to restrict visas of U.S. officials

China has decided to restrict the visas for U.S. officials, in response to the U.S. visa restrictions on some China officials, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday. (https://www.reuters.com/world/china-restrict-visas-us-officials-says-foreign-ministry-2022-03-31/) The United States was restricting visas of some Chinese officials for involvement in “repressive acts” against ethnic and religious minority groups, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this month.

Newsline: India is suddenly the center of global wartime diplomacy

India has historically strong military and economic ties with Russia, and is noticeably reticent to join the condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s government. British foreign minister Liz Truss will visit India on Thursday as part of a “wider diplomatic push” on the war in Ukraine, her office said, a trip which coincides with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov travelling to the country. (https://news.yahoo.com/uks-truss-visit-india-same-213302911.html) India has frustrated Western allies by refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and by buying Russian commodities at a discount. India’s foreign ministry said Lavrov would also visit India on Thursday, adding Indian officials would hold talks with diplomats from the United States and Britain beforehand. It wasn’t immediately known whether Truss and Lavrov would meet while in India.

Newsline: Australian ambassador denied entry to Beijing trial

Australia’s ambassador to China says he has been denied entry to the Beijing trial of an Australian TV host accused of sharing state secrets, the latest development in an opaque case analysts worry may be politically motivated. Australian ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, told media it was “deeply concerning, unsatisfactory and regrettable” he had been denied entry to the trial, which was due to start Thursday. “We can have no confidence in the validity of a process which is conducted in secret,” he said, adding that Australia had no information about the charges or allegations against Cheng. (https://keyt.com/news/2022/03/30/australian-tv-host-set-to-stand-trial-in-china-for-allegedly-supplying-state-secrets-overseas/) Cheng Lei, a former business anchor of China’s state broadcaster CGTN, is accused of illegally supplying state secrets overseas, a charge that carries a possible sentence of between five years to life in prison. A heavy security presence including uniformed police and plain-clothed security personnel were outside the No. 2 People’s Intermediate Court in Beijing where Cheng was to be tried, Reuters reported. Police, who had taped off areas close to the north entrance of the court, checked journalists’ IDs and asked them to move away. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said Canberra had been advised Cheng would stand trial on Thursday, and had asked that Australian officials be permitted to attend the hearing. Cheng has been in custody since August 2020, and observers have raised concerns over the secretive court process. Payne says Cheng has been allowed regular access to Australian consular officials, who last saw her on March 21.

Newsline: Russia’s top diplomat to visit India

Russia’s foreign minister will visit India for a two-day visit beginning Thursday, officials said, likely to press New Delhi to resist Western pressure to condemn the Ukraine invasion. (https://www.ibtimes.com/russias-lavrov-visit-india-pressure-over-ukraine-builds-3455457) India has abstained from UN resolutions censuring Russia and continues to buy Russian oil and other goods. US President Joe Biden last week described India as “somewhat shaky” on Russia. Sergei Lavrov’s trip coincides with visits by British foreign secretary Liz Truss and Daleep Singh, Washington’s chief sanctions strategist. Truss and Singh, the US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, were expected to urge India to assist in Western efforts to isolate Russia economically. Singh “will consult closely with (Indian) counterparts on the consequences of Russia’s unjustified war against Ukraine and mitigating its impact on the global economy,” the White House said. Lavrov was due to arrive in India from China, which has also refused to condemn the invasion and has provided a level of diplomatic cover for an increasingly isolated Russia.

Newsline: Russia accredits Taliban diplomat

Russia has accredited a diplomat from the Taliban to engage with the new Afghan government but remains concerned about the threat of Islamist groups spilling over into Russia via Central Asia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. Speaking at an Afghanistan-focused conference in China, Lavrov said that growing trade and economic ties between Afghanistan and countries in the region was contributing to the potential international recognition of their administration. He said a Taliban envoy was already active in Moscow. “I would like to note that the first Afghan diplomat who arrived in Moscow last month and was sent by the new authorities has received accreditation at the Russian Foreign Ministry,” he said. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-concerned-islamic-states-plans-034027278.html) Russia hosted an international conference on Afghanistan last year to try to reach a peace deal and curb violence between the Taliban and the then Afghan government. Russia has labelled the Taliban a “terrorist organisation” but has welcomed their members on numerous occasions for talks.

Newsline: Ukraine recalls ambassadors to Morocco and Georgia

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has recalled Ukraine’s ambassadors to Morocco and Georgia, suggesting the diplomats had not done enough to convince those countries to punish Russia for its invasion last month. “With all due respect, if there won’t be weapons, won’t be sanctions, won’t be restrictions for Russian business, then please look for other work,” Zelenskyy said during a nighttime video address to the nation on Wednesday. “I am waiting for concrete results in the coming days from the work of our representatives in Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa,” he added. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/31/zelenskyy-recalls-ukraines-ambassadors-to-morocco-and-georgia) Zelenskyy, who has been addressing parliaments around the world via video link urging countries to send more money and arms, called diplomacy “one of the key fronts” in the battle to win the war against Russia. He also said he was expecting results from Ukraine’s military attaches in embassies abroad.