Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 11, 2022

Newsline: France declares six Russian diplomats ‘persona non grata’

France’s foreign ministry on Monday declared six Russian agents posing as diplomats as “persona non grata” after an investigation by the domestic intelligence services concluded they were working against French national interests. “Following a very long investigation, the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) revealed on Sunday April 10 a clandestine operation carried out by the Russian intelligence services on our territory,” the ministry said in a statement, without elaborating. (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/eu-will-fall-line-with-ecowas-sanctions-mali-borrell-says-2022-01-13/) “Six Russian agents operating under diplomatic cover and whose activities proved contrary to our national interests have been declared persona non grata,” it said.

Newsline: Russian ambassador accuses Poland of seizing diplomatic property

Russia’s ambassador to Poland on Monday accused the Polish authorities of seizing Russian diplomatic property in Warsaw as the two countries’ already fraught relations have soured further over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine. Ambassador Sergey Andreev was referring to a decrepit Communist-era apartment building that Warsaw’s mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski, said would be used to house Ukrainian refugees fleeing Russia’s military intervention in their country. “This morning, bailiffs came to our diplomatic property at 100 Sobieskiego Street in Warsaw and ordered the transfer of the building to the Polish state treasury on behalf of Warsaw City Hall,” Russia’s RIA news agency quoted Andreev as saying. “Polish representatives cut off the locks to the gate and…have essentially occupied the facility.” (https://www.reuters.com/world/us/russian-ambassador-accuses-poland-seizing-diplomatic-property-2022-04-11/) Trzaskowski wrote on Twitter on Monday that the property, which used to house Soviet diplomats and is known to locals as Szpiegowo (“Spyville”), had officially been transferred to the city. Poland’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Russian ambassador’s statement but said Monday that it welcomed the seizure of the property by the city of Warsaw and the planned transfer of the building to state ownership.

Newsline: Croatia Tells 24 Russian Embassy Staff to Leave

Croatia on Monday told 24 Russian embassy staff to leave over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and “brutal aggression,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, following similar moves by other EU countries. The 24 included 18 diplomats, it said. “The Russian party was informed about the reduction of administrative-technical staff of the Russian Federation’s embassy in Zagreb,” the statement said. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-11/croatia-tells-24-russian-embassy-staff-to-leave-over-ukraine-invasion) “Russia will give an appropriate response,” news agency TASS quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying on Monday.

Newsline: Ukraine no longer interested in NATO diplomacy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has urged NATO to take stronger actions throughout Russia’s invasion, said in an interview that aired Sunday he is “no longer interested in their diplomacy.” “When you’re working in diplomacy, there are no results. All of this is very bureaucratic,” Zelensky said in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “That’s why the way I am talking to them is absolutely justified. I don’t have any more lives to give. I don’t have any more emotions. I’m no longer interested in their diplomacy that leads to the destruction of my country,” the president added. (https://news.yahoo.com/zelensky-nato-no-longer-interested-010326351.html) Zelensky has referred to NATO as “weak” and “under confident,” while also previously pushing for Ukraine’s membership in the body. NATO has said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine” and last week called for Russian President Vladimir Putin to “withdraw all his forces from Ukraine without conditions and engage in genuine diplomacy.”

Newsline: Austrian diplomacy in Moscow

Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer held “direct, open and tough” talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, in a visit that drew mixed European reactions including surprise, scepticism and condemnation. Nehammer is the first European Union leader to meet Putin since he ordered his troops to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24. Nehammer has expressed solidarity with Ukraine over the Russian invasion and denounced apparent Russian war crimes there, while his government has joined other EU countries in expelling Russian diplomats, albeit only a fraction of the large Russian diplomatic presence there. In a statement after the meeting, Nehammer said the discussion with Putin was “very direct, open and tough”. He added that his most important message to Putin was that the war in Ukraine must end because “in a war there are only losers on both sides”. (https://news.yahoo.com/austrian-leader-holds-open-tough-143824553.html) A spokesman for Nehammer said on Monday afternoon that the meeting went ahead at Putin’s official Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow.

Newsline: Chinese ambassador warns against a second missile defense battery in South Korea

South Korea will hazard its improving relationship with China if it deploys a second American-made missile defense battery, China’s ambassador in Seoul implied. The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, is a sensitive topic in relations between the two countries, and South Korea “should not be treading in that step again,” Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming said in a speech at the Millennium Hilton Seoul hotel, according to news reports. (https://www.stripes.com/theaters/asia_pacific/2022-04-11/south-korea-china-thaad-missile-defense-battery-seoul-5651009.html) Xing, speaking at an event hosted by the Institute for Global Strategy and Cooperation, described China-South Korea relations as “really bad” following the THAAD deployment. They had “recovered the right track because the two nations made joint efforts,” he said. China, one of North Korea’s few allies, opposed the THAAD deployment and continues to consider it harmful to Beijing’s security interests in the region. The $800 million THAAD missile defense system developed by Lockheed Martin has been staged at a South Korean military base in Seongju, roughly 130 miles south of Seoul, since 2017. China responded to the THAAD deployment with what experts believe was a state-sanctioned boycott against South Korea in 2017. South Korea’s economic losses with its top trading partner came to around $7 billion, according to South Korean lawmakers.

Newsline: U.S. marines at consulate in Shanghai are not out of food

Serious concerns were sparked recently after reports that Marine security guards at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai were running out of food following the country’s latest coronavirus lockdown. An embassy employee was seen posting on a private WeChat platform, asking for spare food for the seven U.S. Marines there, according to a recent report by Reuters. But while the Marines’ alleged pleas were answered and they were “beyond grateful,” another consulate staff member reported online, a Marine official told Marine Corps Times that although the intentions of the embassy employees were good, the situation was blown out of proportion and was ultimately misrepresented. “The Marines have two weeks worth of MREs and water, commercial non-perishable goods, and eggs and perishable items,” the official said, “The Marines are fine.” (https://news.yahoo.com/marines-embassy-shanghai-not-food-092716155.html) The official’s comments were also later confirmed by an official statement from a State Department spokesperson. “The MSGs have been and continue to be supported and adequately provided for by Post and State,” the spokesperson said. “There are no confirmed reports of shortages.” The latest coronavirus lockdown in Shanghai has been the source of serious controversy worldwide, as one of the more strict guidelines stipulates that infected children will be separated from uninfected parents. The policy is also responsible for forcing nearly all of its 26 million residents to stay home, meaning that food delivery services and shopping are almost entirely impossible.

Newsline: EU top diplomat says more sanctions on Russia an option

More European Union sanctions on Russia are an option, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Monday when asked if the EU was ready to consider a Russian oil embargo in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. (https://news.yahoo.com/more-eu-sanctions-russia-option-065439810.html) “Sanctions are always on the table,” he told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. “Ministers will discuss which are the further steps,” he said.

Newsline: Two Malaysian Diplomats Sent Packing After No UAE Officials Came To Greet PM Upon Arrival In Dubai

Two senior diplomats in the United Arab Emirates were sent packing following the lack of official “guest status” received by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob during his official visit to the Emirates last month, FMT reported. The two, ambassador Datuk Mohd Tarid Sufian and the consul-general in Dubai, Mohd Hasril Abdul Hamid was reported to be put into “cold storage” where they were both re-assigned to a pool of civil servants in the public service department in Putrajaya. (https://www.msn.com/en-my/news/national/put-in-cold-storage-two-diplomats-sent-packing-after-no-uae-officials-came-to-greet-pm-upon-arrival-in-dubai/ar-AAW4TRP) Quoting several unnamed sources, the news portal also reported that the move to put both senior officials in cold storage doesn’t sit well with officials at the Foreign Affairs Ministry. According to the report, the ambassador had relayed to Wisma Putra that the UAE government believe that the timing of Ismail’s visit to Dubai was not suitable as it coincided with the Dubai World Expo which saw hundreds of VIPs coming from all over the world into the country daily. “Wisma Putra or the foreign minister should have advised the prime minister to reschedule the visit. This is a major flaw as it involves diplomacy and the reputation of the government,” the source said. The Wisma Putra officials are also unhappy with Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah for not defending his officers from being ordered to come back home. “Of course their official reply will be that it is a normal transfer and has nothing to do with the prime minister’s visit. But the staff won’t buy it,” he added. The PM’s entourage, including Saifuddin, was only greeted by Mohd Tarid and Mohd Hasril upon their arrival at the Al Maktoum International Airport, in Dubai, last month.