Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 3, 2022

Newsline: US diplomacy with Saudi Arabia and UAE hits new low

As Joe Biden moved to open US strategic oil reserves, his two biggest oil-producing allies have kept their tanks firmly shut. The UAE and Saudi Arabia continue to rebuff the US president as he attempts to counter soaring oil prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And both countries have been unusually frank about their refusal to step in. The five-week-old war is bringing tensions to a head in several parts of the world, but perhaps nowhere is a regional order more under strain than the Middle East, where two of America’s biggest allies are now seriously questioning the foundations of their relationship. Usually opaque and often inscrutable, officials in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have in recent weeks been uncharacteristically blunt to visiting diplomats about the nature of their grievances, and how far they are prepared to take them. One western diplomat told the Guardian that a Saudi counterpart had said: “This is the end of the road for us and Biden, but maybe the US also.” (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-rebuffed-us-relations-saudi-050011622.html) The Saudi and Emirati refusal to bail Biden out – or even to take his calls – has pushed relations between the Gulf states and Washington to an unprecedented low. The extraordinary flow of Russian wealth to Dubai, just as the US and Europe try to strangle Putin’s economy, has inflamed things further. Add to that the still-sputtering talks between Washington and Tehran, which could see sanctions reprieves in return for Iran returning to the Obama-era nuclear deal, and there are clear signs of a faltering friendship – with the potential to rewrite the geopolitics of the region.

Newsline: China’s diplomatic frenzy in Asia

With the Ukraine crisis putting further strain on China’s ties with the United States and the West as a whole, Beijing has set its eyes on mending fences with its neighbours. China’s diplomatic frenzy in the past two weeks shows the importance of its neighbours in Beijing’s hierarchy of relations. (https://news.yahoo.com/china-reaches-asian-neighbours-ukraine-093000863.html) On the heels of a whirlwind tour of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who travelled abroad for the first time since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Wang also chaired an Afghanistan-focused meeting attended by the foreign ministers from Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The Taliban’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaki and the US special envoy on Afghanistan also attended the talks in Anhui province on Wednesday. China also welcomed foreign ministers from Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia, which holds this year’s Group of 20 presidency, last week.

Newsline: Greek Foreign Minister Leads Aid Mission to Odesa, Reopens Consulate

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias arrived in Odesa on Sunday at the head of a humanitarian aid mission into the southern port city of Ukraine, the foreign ministry said. The humanitarian aid was handed to the city’s municipal authorities. Dendias, 62, also aims to set up a continuous mechanism of distributing aid from Greece and to reopen the country’s consulate in the city. “The reopening of (Greece’s) consulate will help distribute humanitarian aid and set up corridors for the Greek ethnic community to leave from any areas of Ukraine, if needed, via Odesa,” the minister said after upon his arrival in Odesa, according to a statement from the Greek foreign ministry. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-03/greek-foreign-minister-leads-humanitarian-aid-mission-to-odesa) Missiles struck Odesa in the early hours of Sunday, the city council said in an online post.

Newsline: Diplomat Say Europe Eyes New Russian Sanctions

Some European Union governments are pushing for the bloc to quickly impose new sanctions in response to multiple reports that Russian troops executed unarmed civilians in Ukrainian towns, according to diplomats familiar with the discussions. Some EU nations argue there is now a trigger for even more penalties to be put in place with speed, with Ukrainian officials reporting evidence of war crimes committed by Russian troops in northern areas, according to a diplomat familiar with the discussions. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/europe-warns-russia-faces-sanctions-140307676.html) There is not yet consensus on all the details for a new package, or when to implement it, even as the bloc’s executive arm seeks in the meantime to put forward a set of corrective measures as early as this week. A small number of member states, including Germany, are opposed to sanctioning Russia’s energy sector, its maritime trade and other key industries, and EU sanctions require unanimous support. The European Commission was already honing measures that would mostly focus on closing loopholes, strengthening existing actions — such as export controls on technology goods and fully sanctioning banks already cut off from the SWIFT global payments system — and expanding the list of sanctioned individuals.

Newsline: South Korea’s incoming president nominates former ambassador as prime minister

South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol on Sunday announced his intent to name a seasoned former prime minister, ambassador and economic expert to serve as the country’s No. 2 official under his incoming government. (https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/koreas-incoming-president-nominates-prime-minister-83842411) Yoon’s pick of Han Duck-soo for prime minister is the first major nomination in his government, which is set to be inaugurated on May 10. South Korea’s executive power is concentrated with the president, but the prime minister leads the country if the president becomes incapacitated. A nomination of prime minister requires parliamentary approval. Han, 72, held a string of top spots such as trade minister, finance minister and prime minister when South Korea was governed by back-to-back liberal presidents, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, from 1998 to 2008. During the next conservative government of President Lee Myung-bak, Han was South Korea’s ambassador to the United States.

Newsline: Diplomats monitor situation as social media platforms blocked in Sri Lanka

Western and Asian diplomats based in Sri Lanka said they were monitoring the situation and expected the government to allow citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations. Sri Lankan soldiers with assault rifles and police manned checkpoints in Colombo on Sunday as the government blocked social media platforms after imposing a curfew to contain public unrest triggered by the country’s economic crisis. The latest restrictions come after the government on Saturday implemented a countrywide curfew as protests against the government’s handling of the economic crisis turned violent. The curfew will run till 6 a.m. (0030 GMT) on Monday. “The social media block is temporary and imposed due to special instructions given by the Defence Ministry. It was imposed in the interests of the country and people to maintain calm,” Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Chairman Jayantha de Silva told Reuters. (https://news.yahoo.com/social-media-platforms-blocked-sri-041054288.html) Internet monitoring organisation NetBlocks said real-time network data showed that Sri Lanka had imposed a nationwide social media blackout, restricting access to platforms including Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Instagram as a state of emergency was declared amid widespread protests.