Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 15, 2022

Newsline: Israeli Ambassador hopes U.S. will mend ties with Saudi Arabia

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said that it would be “very important for our region” if the U.S. and Saudi Arabia were to “fix” their relationship. “Saudi Arabia is a hugely important actor in our part of the world and in the Islamic world as a whole,” Herzog said. “Strategically speaking, and I’m not ignoring all the difficulties, I think that is very important for our region” that relations improve. Herzog also said Israel hopes Saudi Arabia will join other Gulf countries in growing the Abraham Accords and normalizing relations with Israel, but said that will be difficult if the U.S. and Saudi Arabia haven’t restored their relationship first. (https://www.axios.com/israel-us-improve-saudi-relations-herzog-7f4c5831-b94b-49e3-af74-cec5cadbc352.html) The Israeli government is concerned that the tensions between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia will push the Saudis towards Russia and China and lead to less U.S. engagement in the Gulf, which could embolden Iran. U.S.-Saudi relations have been rocky since the election of President Biden. The Saudis have recently rebuffed U.S. requests to increase their oil output, opting instead to stick to a production pact reached with Russia.

Newsline: Russia announces expulsion of 18 EU diplomats

Russia ramped up its diplomatic expulsions on Friday, announcing that 18 European Union diplomats would be considered “persona non grata” in the country. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleged in a statement that it was taking such measures after 19 Russian diplomats to the EU and European Atomic Energy Community were expelled. “The Russian side declared the responsibility of the EU for the consistent destruction of the architecture of bilateral dialogue and cooperation that has been created for decades,” the foreign ministry said. The timing of when the EU diplomats would be expelled was not specified in the statement, which only said they would leave “in the near future.” (https://thehill.com/policy/international/3269821-russia-announces-expulsion-of-18-eu-diplomats/) The EU condemned the expulsion of its diplomats later on Friday. “The European Union deplores the unjustified, baseless decision of the Russian Federation to expel 18 members of the Delegation of the European Union to the Russian Federation,” Peter Stano, lead spokesperson for the external affairs of the EU, said in a statement. “There are no grounds for Friday’s decision by the Russian authorities beyond being a pure retaliatory step. Russia’s chosen course of action will further deepen its international isolation.” The continued expulsions signal an advancing breakdown in diplomatic communications between Russia and the rest of the world.

Newsline: US top diplomat told EU leaders Russia’s war on Ukraine could last until the end of 2022

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European Union allies that he believes Russia’s war on Ukraine could last for the rest of the year, according to CNN. Two European officials told the outlet of Blinken’s assessment that the conflict will not end quickly. Another two said that they believed fighting in eastern Ukraine could continue for another four to six months, CNN reported. Asked by CNN for comment, a senior State Department official said that Blinken had discussed concerns over the conflict stretching out, but that his goal was to “bring it to a halt as quickly as possible.” (https://news.yahoo.com/blinken-told-eu-leaders-believes-130806380.html) Officals are increasingly seeing the conflict as having no quick end on the horizon, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying in an April 4 White House press briefing that “it may not be just a matter of a few more weeks before all is said and done.” The next phase of the war “could be measured in months or longer,” he said. But Blinken’s assessment stretches the potential time frame out even further.

Newsline: North Macedonia orders another six Russian diplomats to leave the country

North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry on Friday ordered six Russian diplomats to leave the country over violations of diplomatic norms, the second such expulsion in less than a month, a statement said. A diplomatic note has been handed over to Sergey Bazdnikin, Russia’s ambassador to Skopje and the diplomats have five days to leave the country, it said. “The six Russian diplomats in question were engaging in activities contrary to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” said the statement posted on ministry’s website. (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/north-macedonia-orders-another-six-russian-diplomats-leave-country-2022-04-15/) Officials from the Russian embassy in Skopje could not immediately be reached for comment. On March 28, North Macedonia which is a NATO member and wants to join the European Union, expelled five other Russian diplomats.

Newsline: France to Move French Embassy in Ukraine Back to Kyiv

France will “very soon” move back its embassy in Ukraine to the capital Kyiv from the western city of Lviv, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in a phone call. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-04-14/france-to-move-french-embassy-in-ukraine-back-to-kyiv) The French embassy was moved to Lviv in early March as conditions worsened on the ground after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the ministry statement said. European politicians have flocked to the Ukrainian capital since Russian forces withdrew from the country’s north in the face of strong Ukrainian resistance earlier this month.

Newsline: 400-plus Russian diplomats expelled worldwide over Ukraine

Over 400 Russian diplomats have been expelled from at least 20 countries over the invasion of Ukraine, as nations in Europe and beyond respond to reports of hundreds of civilian bodies left near Kyiv following a retreat by Russian forces. In total, 443 diplomats had been or were set to be expelled as of April 8, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Forty-five were in neighboring Poland, more than in any other country. Slovakia has decided to kick out 38 Russian diplomats, while Slovenia moved to expel 33. Germany and France on April 4 ordered 40 and 35 Russian diplomats to leave, respectively. Japan announced it would expel eight diplomats and officials at the Russian Embassy and its trade delegation, just under 10% of the mission’s total staff. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Ukraine-war/400-plus-Russian-diplomats-expelled-worldwide-over-Ukraine) In response, Russia declared 45 Polish diplomats personae non gratae, Reuters reported. The Russian foreign ministry has announced plans to retaliate against Japan, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. More than 150 Russian diplomats were expelled from 28 Western countries after a former Russian spy was attacked with a nerve agent in the U.K. in 2018, according to The Economist. The current wave of expulsions, which is already more than double in scale, is “unprecedented,” the publication said.

Newsline: Vietnam arrests deputy foreign minister in bribery case

Police in Vietnam on Thursday arrested Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs To Anh Dung on suspicion of bribery, the Ministry of Public Security said. Dung, 58, is accused of taking bribes and police have searched his house, the ministry said in a statement. (https://news.yahoo.com/vietnam-arrests-deputy-foreign-minister-125937914.html) Dung’s arrest is part of a wider investigation where foreign ministry officials have been accused of taking bribes from Vietnamese citizens abroad who have wanted to return to the country on “rescue flights” at a time during the COVID-19 pandemic when commercial flights were not available, according to state media. Dung was appointed Vietnam’s ambassador to Japan in January but hadn’t officially taken the post. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.