Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for April 27, 2022

Newsline: Russia expels Norwegian diplomats

The Russian foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that Russia will expel three Norwegian and eight Japanese diplomats. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/4/27/russia-bans-entry-to-287-british-mps-over-ukraine) Oslo expelled three Russian diplomats earlier this month. Moscow expelled 40 German diplomats on Monday.

Newsline: US diplomats travel back to Ukraine

The State Department said that American diplomats have begun traveling back to Ukraine as the United States prepares to reopen its embassy in Kyiv in the next few weeks. “They are making, for the time being, day trips into Lviv. That first day trip started today,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters, referring to U.S. diplomats. “As I said before, we are accelerating planning to reestablish a diplomatic presence at our embassy in Kyiv. It is something we want to as soon as it is responsible for us to do so,” he added. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-diplomats-travel-back-ukraine-205142796.html) The day trip to Lviv marks the first time that U.S. diplomats have returned to Ukraine since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of the country, according to CNN, which first reported about the trip. A source familiar told the network the trip was made from Poland to Lviv.

Newsline: Russia expels eight Japanese diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it was expelling eight Japanese diplomats in a retaliatory move as it criticized Japan for taking an “openly hostile anti-Russian course”. The ministry said it had summoned a representative of the Japanese embassy in Moscow and told him the eight diplomats must leave Russia by May 10. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-expels-eight-japanese-diplomats-134914934.html) Tokyo expelled eight Russian diplomats earlier this month in a rare move it said was in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Newsline: New pick for US ambassador to Saudi Arabia will be considered an insult

President Joe Biden’s pick for US ambassador to Saudi Arabia will likely be considered a disappointment or even an insult to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a former US official told Insider. Last Friday, Biden nominated Michael Ratney to the post following the departure of Gen. John Abizaid, a former head of US Central Command, from Riyadh last year. The nomination comes at a low point in US-Saudi relations, with Biden clearly distancing himself from the country and Crown Prince Mohammed — also known as MBS — reportedly trying to punish him back. David Schenker, who served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department from 2019 to January 2021, told Insider of Ratney: “He’s a very capable diplomat, he served in positions of importance, requited himself well, and is held in high regard.” “But we’ve seen a lot of stresses in the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia and this is not going to help.” (https://news.yahoo.com/bidens-pick-us-ambassador-saudi-091033224.html)Historically, most US ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have been political appointees with deep military ties, like Abizaid. Other former recent ambassadors include Joseph Westphal, the former under secretary of the US Army, and James Smith, a former executive with the Raytheon arms manufacturer. But Ratney, a widely respected, Arabic-speaking diplomat, is the first foreign-service officer to be in line for the post since Charles Freeman in 1989. Saudi Arabia may therefore be offended by Ratney’s appointment, Schenker said. A core tenet of the two countries’ relationship has been the US guarantee of Saudi security: The US maintains a major military base in Riyadh and sells millions of dollars of arms to the Saudis every year. Ratney’s selection could indicate to Riyadh that Biden isn’t as concerned with Saudi Arabia’s security as his predecessors.

Newsline: United Nations General Assembly will subject any Security Council veto to debate

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UN General Assembly voted on Tuesday to subject Security Council members that veto resolutions to an assembly debate on their decision within 10 days – a move as likely to affect China as it does Russia. (https://news.yahoo.com/united-nations-general-assembly-subject-093000977.html) Passed by consensus by the 193-member assembly, the resolution was greeted with applause and comes amid widespread criticism that the United Nations has failed in its mission to prevent the Ukraine invasion, regarded by some analysts as the greatest international security crisis since World War II. A Security Council resolution two days after the February 24 invasion would have required Moscow to halt its attack and remove its troops from Ukraine – but Russia vetoed it.

Newsline: US top diplomat says Russia not ‘serious’ about Ukraine diplomacy

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no seriousness about diplomacy to end the Ukraine war, despite a series of international efforts. “We’ve seen no sign to date that President Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While the United States would support Ukrainian efforts to end the war diplomatically, Blinken said: “Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and, indeed, to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table.” (https://news.yahoo.com/blinken-says-putin-not-serious-154613058.html) Blinken was responding to a question from Senator Rand Paul, a Republican critical of US interventionism, who accused President Joe Biden of contributing to Putin’s decision to invade by “beating the drums to admit Ukraine to NATO.” The top US diplomat responded that, in talks with Russia ahead of the February 24 invasion, it became clear that Putin’s complaints about Ukraine entering the Western alliance were a pretext. “It is abundantly clear — in President Putin’s own words — that this was never about Ukraine being potentially part of NATO and it was always about his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign, independent country.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow supported peace talks with Ukraine but also warned of a danger of World War III.

Newsline: Chinese foreign ministry condemns killing of its citizens in Pakistan blast

China has condemned an attack that killed three of its citizens in Pakistan, demanding that Islamabad fight against those involved. “China expresses its strong condemnation and great indignation at this major terrorist attack,” deputy director of the Chinese foreign ministry Zhao Lijian tweeted on Wednesday. He urged Pakistani authorities to “deal with the aftermath” and “resolutely fight against terrorist organisations involved in the case”. (https://news.yahoo.com/pakistan-attack-china-condemns-killing-044918407.html) Three Chinese tutors and a Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide bombing near Karachi University’s Confucius Institute on Tuesday. The incident poses a key challenge for a government freshly-installed after weeks of political turmoil. A long time ally and key investor in the country, China is heavily involved in large development projects across Pakistan. Confucius Institutes are a key part of China’s soft diplomacy strategies across the world.