Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 13, 2022

Newsline: Diplomatic battle rages at UNESCO over Russia meeting

A dispute has erupted at the UN cultural agency over Russia’s hosting of its World Heritage Committee in just two months, which Western nations say they will boycott over the invasion of Ukraine. Russia is due to host the annual meeting of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in the city of Kazan in its Tatarstan region from June 19-30. The meeting is notably tasked each year with deciding which sites and monuments will be given the organisation’s coveted World Heritage status — and which could be stripped of the label if countries have fallen short on looking after them. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/diplomatic-battle-rages-at-unesco-over-russia-meeting/ar-AAWbk2s) The meeting is one of the few international events that Russia is still scheduled to host after President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which according to UNESCO has caused damage to almost 100 cultural sites. But in a sign of the West’s difficulties in building a broad international coalition against Moscow, the campaign to strip Kazan of its right to host the event is proving an uphill battle. Just a week before official invitations are set out, the mainly Western nations opposing Russia’s right to host the event are racing against the clock to try to convince the committee to find another venue and strip Russia of its presidency of the group.

Newsline: Germany irritated by Ukraine’s diplomatic snub

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday criticized a diplomatic snub by Ukraine for his country’s president and defended Berlin’s record on delivering weapons to Kyiv amid tensions that have flared at a delicate moment in German policymaking on the war. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s largely ceremonial head of state, had hoped to travel to Ukraine on Wednesday with his Polish and Baltic counterparts. But he said Tuesday that his presence “apparently … wasn’t wanted in Kyiv.” (https://news.yahoo.com/germany-irritated-ukraines-snub-presidential-150143674.html) The German newspaper Bild quoted an unidentified Ukrainian diplomat as saying that Steinmeier was not welcome at the moment, pointing to his close relations with Russia in the past. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany later said the government would be glad to welcome Scholz — who, unlike Steinmeier, sets government policy. But the snub to Steinmeier may make that more difficult. “The president would have liked to go to Ukraine,” Scholz told rbb24 Inforadio, noting that Steinmeier is Germany’s head of state and was recently reelected with broad support. “It is, in any case, somewhat irritating, to put it politely,” Scholz added, noting that Steinmeier has strongly criticized Russia’s war and called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine.

Newsline: Chinese embassy fury over claims in Israel of Passover gift bug

The Chinese embassy in Israel is fuming over “baseless rumours” that a listening device was concealed among Passover gifts delivered to Israeli government officials. In a statement on Tuesday night, the embassy hit back at “faulty” media reporting that the gifts – a customary diplomatic practice for the holiday – included a thermal mug that “may” contain “a suspicious device”. “The baseless rumours have a severe impact as they aim to drive a wedge between China and Israel, tarnish China’s image and seriously mislead the public,” the embassy said. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/chinese-embassy-fury-over-false-093000974.html) The embassy’s angry response followed local media reports on Tuesday which quoted sources raising doubts about the gifts which were delivered to ministries responsible for science and transport. Israel’s security agency also issued a statement on Tuesday in response to the reports, confirming there were no suspicious components in the mugs.

Newsline: China accuses US of ‘weaponizing’ consulate order

China has lashed out at the United States for ordering its consulate staff to leave the locked-down city of Shanghai, accusing officials of “weaponizing” the financial hub’s failing attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19. On Monday, the US State Department “ordered” the departure of non-emergency employees and their families from the city of 25 million “due to a surge in Covid-19 cases and the impact of restrictions related to (China’s) response,” according to a statement on its website. China’s Foreign Ministry has notified the US it “firmly opposes” the consulate order, ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a news briefing. “We express strong dissatisfaction with the politicization and weaponization of evacuations by the US,” Zhao said, adding that the US was “smearing China.” Zhao also defended China’s Covid prevention and control policies as “scientific and effective,” insisting the government had “every confidence in bringing the new wave of Covid-19 under control” despite rising case numbers. (https://kvia.com/news/2022/04/12/china-accuses-us-of-weaponizing-extended-shanghai-lockdown/) The financial hub reported more than 26,000 new locally transmitted cases on Monday, the sixth consecutive day over 20,000, according to China’s National Health Commission (NHC). So far, more than 320,000 cases have been reported across 31 provinces — including those in Shanghai — since March 1.

Newsline: Indian consulate in Shanghai to be ‘inaccessible’ due to Covid curbs

Adhering to China’s policy of zero tolerance towards Covid, the Consulate General of India in Shanghai will remain shut and will not be able to provide services. Indians in eastern China have been advised to approach the Embassy of India in Beijing for emergency consular services. In a statement, the Consulate General of India, Shanghai, said: “As the City of Shanghai continues to remain sealed and controlled in different degrees by the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, the Consulate General of India will remain inaccessible and will not be in a position to provide consular services in person.” (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/indian-consulate-in-shanghai-to-be-inaccessible-due-to-covid-curbs/ar-AAWa5GK) “Indian citizens in Eastern China Region may apply at Embassy of India, Beijing for availing urgent consular services,” the statement read.

Newsline: Shanghai Lockdown Concerns U.S. As American Diplomats Evacuate From City

The United States has ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff from its diplomatic mission in Shanghai as the city of 25 million enters its third week of a blanket lockdown to enforce China’s “zero-COVID” policy. American diplomats and their families had previously been authorized to leave on a voluntary basis, according to a notice over the weekend. On Tuesday, however, the U.S. mission in China said non-emergency staff were ordered to depart after capacity at its consulate general in Shanghai was reduced. “Our change in posture reflects our assessment that it is best for our employees and their families to be reduced in number and our operations to be scaled down as we deal with the changing circumstances on the ground,” the statement said. “The employees and family members will depart on commercial flights. The Department ordered the departure due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.” (https://www.newsweek.com/shanghai-china-covid-lockdown-us-state-department-consulate-general-staff-evacuation-1697142) Ambassador Nicholas Burns, who only arrived in Beijing in March, and other American diplomats “have continuously raised our concerns about the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens with People’s Republic of China officials. We have informed the government of the PRC about the ordered departure,” said U.S. Mission China.