Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 18, 2022

Newsline: US President seen as focused too much on global diplomacy

The war in Europe will continue to dominate President Biden’s time, but aides do not want it to occupy all of his attention. In fact, some of Biden’s advisers believe they only need to look across the Atlantic to find a warning sign of a president perceived to be focused too much on global diplomacy and not enough on domestic pocketbook issues. (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-consumed-ukraine-team-wants-154918986.html) The rest of the world might not allow it. But Joe Biden wants to return his focus to matters happening at home. With the war in Ukraine entering its second month and continuing to dominate global headlines, White House allies are expressing concern that voters may see the president as more consumed by international affairs than domestic ones. The White House itself is keenly aware that voters’ perceptions about the economy are still likely to determine the outcome of November’s midterm elections. And as they warily watch the president’s poor poll numbers, two senior administration officials said a concerted effort is being launched to reemphasize to Americans that the president understands their pain and is trying to help. In the coming weeks, Biden will travel more inside the country and further stress that Russia’s invasion isn’t some far-off crisis but one with deep economic ramifications in the United States.

Newsline: Senior U.S. envoys to visit the Solomon Islands amid China security concerns

White House Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell and the State Department’s top official for Asia will travel this week to the Solomon Islands, the White House said on Monday, amid concerns that the Pacific Island country is making a security pact with China. Campbell and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink will lead a delegation that includes Department of Defense and U.S. Agency for International Development officials to three countries: the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the White House National Security Council said in a statement. (https://whtc.com/2022/04/18/senior-u-s-officials-to-visit-the-solomon-islands-amid-china-security-concerns/) In February, the United States announced it would open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, part of an effort by the Biden administration to commit more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s drive for greater influence. The Solomon Islands said in March that it was creating a partnership with China to tackle security threats and ensure a safe environment for investment in what would be a major inroad for Beijing in a region that U.S. allies Australia and New Zealand have for decades seen as their “backyard.” But after a regional backlash, the Solomon Islands said it would not allow a Chinese military base there.

Newsline: Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summons Sweden’s envoy

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry summoned Sweden’s charge d’affaires over planned Quran burnings, reportedly saying that such activity could seriously endanger Sweden’s relations with the Muslim world. In Iran, dozens of students gathered Monday at Sweden’s embassy to protest planned Quran burnings. Chanting “Insulters of Quran must be condemned!” they also repeated traditional slogans such as “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” (https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/world/sweden-links-riots/BX4LEYFTD43ZDLX2XKWV7WTCYE/) Sweden, a nation of 10 million, has seen unrest, scuffles, arson and violence since Thursday that has left some police officers and protesters injured. It was triggered by Danish far-right politician Rasmus Paludan’s meetings and planned Quran burnings across the country. Swedish police said Monday that the riots that have shaken several cities and towns in the Nordic country are extremely serious crimes against society and suspect some protesters are linked to criminal gangs that intentionally target police.

Newsline: Lebanon’s top diplomat pledges to work with Cyprus on potential offshore gas

Lebanon is ready to work with Cyprus to exploit potential gas deposits in waters between the two east Mediterranean countries, Lebanon’s top diplomat said, even though a deal on offshore rights hasn’t been formally finalized. Cyprus and Lebanon signed an agreement delineating their respective offshore exclusive economic zones in 2007, but the Lebanese parliament has yet to ratify it amid the country’s ongoing maritime border dispute with Israel. Nevertheless, Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart in Nicosia that “with Cyprus there’s no problem, once we found gas we’re ready to go, put it together.” “We talked about it and I can assure you that Lebanon is ready to do it,” Bou Habib said. The Lebanese top diplomat’s remarks come as Europe is seeking new energy sources to wean itself off Russian gas in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (https://www.kaaltv.com/world-news/lebanon-ready-to-work-with-cyprus-on-potential-offshore-gas-/6447093/?cat=10237) Any discoveries within Lebanon’s own economic zone would be a long-term boon for the crisis-hit country’s beleaguered economy.

Newsline: US embassy extends services to make up for Covid lockdown-hit Shanghai consulate

The US embassy in Beijing has taken over consulate services in eastern China after the departure of some of its personnel in Shanghai because of a weeks-long lockdown. The embassy said on Monday that it had reorganised operations to ensure they could help the affected American citizens. “We have assembled a team based in Beijing to supplement the surge in demand for urgent citizen services and now have 80 officers working together to support the more than 40,000 American citizens in the Shanghai consular district alone,” the embassy said. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-embassy-extends-services-covid-093000442.html) The consular district covers Shanghai and the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The embassy said it was offering advice to American citizens who were having trouble leaving Shanghai and getting food and medical care in the lockdown. The mission suggested that Americans contact the embassy about confirmed flights or other urgent matters, and contact neighbourhood committees for food delivery or bulk orders, warning that deliveries may be delayed and limited.

Newsline: US envoy for North Korea pledges to sustain ‘joint deterrence’ with South Korea

The US envoy for North Korea said Seoul and Washington have agreed to maintain the “strongest possible joint deterrence” amid rising missile and nuclear threats from Pyongyang as the two countries sat down for talks in the capital of South Korea on Monday. Washington will act “responsible and decisively” in its response to the “escalatory actions” as North Korea flexes its artillery muscle in display of test missile launches towards Seoul and Tokyo, sparking concerns that Pyongyang is bracing to resume nuclear testing of weapons. The two officials, US special representative Sung Kim and his deputy Jun Pak, met with South Korean officials, including nuclear envoy Noh Kyu-duk, on Monday as the former kickstarted their five-day visit in Seoul on Monday. As the talks began, Mr Sung said that his latest visit to North Korea’s neighbour and adversary was an “indication of our determination and commitment to maintain the closest possible coordination” between the allies amid developments in the North. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-envoy-north-korea-says-093716169.html) The high-level talks between Washington and South Korea come at the time of a nine-day annual joint military drill by the troops of both countries. The joint drills have been condemned by North Korea, calling it rehearsals for war despite them being scaled back in recent years during efforts to get Pyongyang on the table for talks for diplomacy route.

Newsline: The Russian ambassador is Washington’s least popular man

No one wants to talk to Anatoly Antonov. Russia’s ambassador to the United States can’t get meetings with senior officials at the White House or the State Department. He can’t convince U.S. lawmakers to see him, much less take a photo. It’s the rare American think tanker who’s willing to admit to having any contact with the envoy. Not even Russian leader Vladimir Putin chats with him. Antonov downplays his disconnect with Putin as simply the way the Russian system works, stressing that he has a direct line to the Kremlin, if not the Kremlin boss. But what about the growing number of cold shoulders in Washington, a city that has never truly welcomed him? “Frankly, we are in a blockade,” Antonov says of himself and his increasingly empty embassy. “When I came to Washington, my idea was to use the word ‘improvement’” to describe his goals for the relationship,” Antonov said. “Now I prefer to use the word ‘stabilization.’” He smiles when the word “survival” is suggested instead. (https://news.yahoo.com/lonely-anatoly-russian-ambassador-washington-083000898.html) In an exclusive interview with POLITICO — conducted last week in the ornate Ukrainian Room of the Russian embassy over tea, ice cream and pastries cooked by a beloved chef the U.S. is soon to kick out — Antonov is by turns charming and unbending, with a riposte for every question that challenges the Kremlin’s official position. It is unwise, foolish, he insists, to shut out the ambassador of a country with which the United States is “doomed to cooperate” on everything from nuclear non-proliferation to climate change.

Newsline: Exiled Nicaraguan ambassador ‘fed up’

He was President Daniel Ortega’s representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), but when speaking to its general assembly in March, he denounced the “dictatorship” back home and blasted the detention of 177 political prisoners. On March 23, McFields decided he had had enough. Speaking to AFP by telephone from the United States, McFields talked about how the bloody repression of anti-government protests four years ago — which left 355 dead, dozens imprisoned and thousands fleeing into exile, according to human rights groups — had disillusioned him. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/exiled-nicaraguan-ambassador-fed-up-with-cruelty/ar-AAWjx4A) Last November, former guerrilla Ortega, 76, won a fourth consecutive mandate as several potential rivals sat in detention, with no genuine competition available to stand. He rules with absolute power, backed up by his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo.