Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for April, 2022

Newsline: Russia’s Sanctioned Superyachts Seen As New Platforms For US Indo-Pacific Diplomacy

Now the West sanctions and sweeps up Russia’s high-end cruise ships, Russia’s luxe armada can go to work for the West as roving diplomatic posts or globe-spanning Presidential and Royal yachts. Putin’s flamboyant fleet served as unregulated floating embassies, offering Russians instant respectability, good security, and access to all the types of people Russia needed to make good things happen for the Russian state. But Russia’s water party is over. Many sanctioned Russian yachts are trapped in boatyards or otherwise stuck, are getting impounded and seized by Western authorities. Rather than take a moment to figure out how these unexpected new assets might be employed, Western authorities seem content to just shuffle these one-of-a-kind platforms “off the books” as soon as possible. The abrupt divestment is bad business. With the Russian State out of the luxe vessel market, the ships will likely sell for pennies on the dollar. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/craighooper/2022/04/30/russias-sanctioned-superyachts-new-platforms-for-indo-pacific-diplomacy/) The United States needs extra diplomatic presence in the South Pacific right away. In the strategically-located Solomons Islands—an island chain perched between the United States and Australia, Chinese diplomats exploited Western disinterest in the small, impoverished country, enticing the Solomons Islands into agreements that likely offers China an avenue to establish a forward military presence there. Lacking effective diplomatic representation, the United States was caught by surprise, and rushed a delegation to the country, promising, among other things, to re-open a long-closed U.S. embassy. Reopening the Solomons Islands embassy will take too long. But turning a luxury yacht into an ersatz floating embassy can be done quite quickly, and American diplomats, sailing aboard the luxury platform, can do an enormous amount of regional influencing in a way that China will be hard-pressed to match. The operational costs of deploying a luxury yacht into the southern oceans is tiny in comparison to the expense of losing out to better-established diplomatic rivals. The State Department will never have access to a well-appointed luxury yacht again.

Newsline: US, Mexican presidents confer on migration, diplomacy

President Joe Biden and Mexico’s Andres Manuel López Obrador agreed in a phone call Friday to do more to promote “just, humane and effective efforts to reduce irregular migration” at the southern border, the White House reported after their nearly hourlong conversation. López Obrador tweeted that the conversation was “cordial” and that they “spoke of issues of interest to the bilateral relationship.” The agenda also included the upcoming Summit of the Americas in June in Los Angeles, and the end of coronavirus restrictions on asylum seekers trying to come to the U.S. (https://www.mrt.com/news/article/Migration-a-top-focus-for-Biden-call-with-Mexican-17136628.php) The two leaders also talked about addressing the root causes of migration through development initiatives in Central America and Mexico, according to a statement from the Mexican president’s office. They discussed the need to guarantee safe and sustainable ways of life for their citizens and migrants, as well as expanding legal pathways for migrants and refugees.

Newsline: Foreign Office told British rape victim to ‘carry on with holiday and enjoy it’

A British rape victim in Turkey was told to “carry on with her holiday and enjoy it” by a Foreign Office official, the public services watchdog has found. She received a message from the Vice Consul which said: “What you now have to do is to carry on with your holiday and enjoy it.” (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/04/29/british-rape-victim-told-carry-holiday-enjoy-foreign-office/) The young woman, known only as Ms B, was denied the opportunity to take legal action because she was given incorrect information by the Government department, according to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).

Newsline: Russian Diplomats Owe New York City Over $101K for Unpaid Parking Tickets

Several Russian diplomats reportedly owe the state of New York over $101,000 in parking tickets and fees, according to a report from NBC New York. Now, the state of New York has begun to suspend vehicle registrations for diplomats who have avoided paying parking fees for years. According to New York City’s database of open parking violations, Russia reportedly has 46 unpaid parking tickets registered to diplomatic vehicles dating back to 2003 that have gone unpaid, and an NBC New York analysis of several summonses shows the fines reach $101,000. A State Department spokesperson told NBC New York that three or more unpaid parking violations cause a country’s suspension from registering any more diplomatic vehicles and licenses. NBC New York also reported that the State Department has held up at least two dozen Russian registrations. (https://www.newsweek.com/russian-diplomats-owe-new-york-city-over-101k-unpaid-parking-tickets-1702295) Russia will be unable to renew any of its diplomatic license plates in the U.S. until they pay the outstanding fees. A statement to NBC New York from the State Department also said that this treatment applies to all United Nations members who have unpaid parking tickets.

Newsline: US ambassador to Moscow says ‘US-Russia relations driven into the depths’

The Russian war on Ukraine has “driven US-Russia relations into the depths,” US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan told CNN. Although the top envoy did not say that the relationship between Washington and Moscow was at its absolute lowest point, Sullivan noted that it was “about as bad as it could be.” “US-Russia relations were bad when I arrived here in January of 2020,” and “they have just gotten worse, spiraled downward, since then,” he said. (https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/28/politics/us-ambassador-russia-sullivan-cnntv/index.html) In an interview from Moscow with Alisyn Camerota on “CNN Newsroom,” Sullivan said there has been “very little engagement with the Russian government,” and his communications have focused on the detained US citizens and “the functioning of our embassy,” which is under sharp restrictions imposed by the Russian government.

Newsline: Turkey condemns Germany’s summoning ambassador

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag condemned Germany’s summoning of Ankara’s ambassador over a legal case on Friday, saying it was an “open attempt to interfere in Turkey’s internal affairs.” Bozdag said Germany had trampled on justice many times in the past and said it should act in line with international law. (https://news.yahoo.com/turkey-condemns-germanys-summoning-ambassador-150749593.html) Media reports cited a spokesman for Germany’s foreign ministry as saying the Turkish ambassador was summoned over the sentencing on Monday of philanthropist Osman Kavala to life in prison without parole.

Newsline: Canada plans to reopen embassy in Ukraine

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said the government plans to reopen its embassy in Ukraine soon. According to a CTV report, Joly said before the Senate foreign affairs and international trade committee on Thursday that her objective is to do so in the coming days, weeks, reports Xinhua news agency. “We just need to make sure that there is a secure environment for staff and also we’re looking at what our other Five Eyes colleagues and allies are doing,” Joly was quoted as saying. (https://in.investing.com/news/canada-plans-to-reopen-embassy-in-ukraine-3181258) Canada closed its embassy in Kiev on February 12 and relocated diplomatic staff to the western city of Lviv. All staff members were later moved to Poland. The US, France and Italy have announced similar plans.

Newsline: Germany summons Turkish envoy

Germany summoned Turkey’s ambassador in Berlin on Friday to protest a sentence of life in prison that a Turkish court handed to a prominent Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist. Western governments and rights groups strongly criticized this week’s ruling which found Osman Kavala guilty of attempting to overthrow the government with mass protests in 2013. The court in Istanbul also sentenced seven other defendants to 18 years in prison each for “aiding” the attempt. Christofer Burger, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, said Turkey’s envoy was summoned for talks Friday morning. (https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/germany-summons-turkish-envoy-kavala-verdict-84393135) He told reporters in Berlin that Germany had urged other European Union countries to make a similar diplomatic protest.

Newsline: Netherlands reopens embassy in Ukraine’s Kyiv

The Netherlands will reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Friday, the Dutch foreign affairs ministry said. The country removed its diplomatic staff from Ukraine two days after Russian troops invaded on Feb 24. It reopened its embassy in Lviv, in western Ukraine, last week. “A small embassy team there (in Kyiv) will work closely with the Ukrainian authorities and other returned partner countries,” Dutch foreign affairs minister Wopke Hoekstra said on Twitter. “It is important that we provide support to Ukraine on the ground.” (https://whtc.com/2022/04/29/netherlands-reopens-embassy-in-ukraines-kyiv/) The Kyiv embassy will not be accessible yet for consular assistance. Several other European countries, including France, recently announced they were moving their embassies back to Kyiv.

Newsline: Irish reporter accuses Russian Ambassador of “taking us for fools”

Russia’s Ambassador to Ireland made a number of claims that were challenged by reporter Sarah McInerney on Thursday evening’s episode of RTÉ’s Drivetime. “Russia is not carrying a war,” Ambassador Yury Filatov told host Sarah McInerney during the roughly 20-minute interview, “Russia is carrying a special military operation in Ukraine.” Filatov went on to claim that Russia has put a “special emphasis on not targeting any civilian infrastructure” while in Ukraine. McInerney pressed Filatov on those claims, playing two separate clips of people speaking about atrocities in Ukraine. Filatov said it was a “calculated staged provocation we witnessed in Bucha. The Russian military had nothing to do with the killing of civilians.” McInerney then apologized for interrupting Filatov but said: “It’s very difficult and insulting to our listeners to hear what you are saying. “I think I have to put that to you, because you are taking us all for fools, aren’t you? “Your contention seems to be that Russia invaded Ukraine and after that point, Ukrainians, in response, started randomly killing each other, raping each other, their own citizens, in an effort to frame Russia for those crimes. “The whole world is in on this big lie, is what Russia is saying.” (https://www.irishcentral.com/news/politics/irish-reporter-russian-ambassador-fools) McInerney then told Filatov that she is not trying to blame the messenger, but that she and others increasingly feel they cannot trust the messenger, which is Filatov.