Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 1, 2022

Newsline: Diplomats say EU leans towards Russian oil ban by year-end

The European Union is leaning toward a ban on imports of Russian oil by the end of the year, two EU diplomats said, after talks between the European Commission and EU member states this weekend. (https://news.yahoo.com/eu-leans-towards-russian-oil-110430891.html) The European Union is preparing a sixth package of sanctions against Russia in response to the invasion just over two months ago of Ukraine that Moscow calls a special military operation. The package is expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks, as well as more individuals and companies. The Commission, which is coordinating the EU response, held talks dubbed “confessionals” with small groups of EU countries and will aim to firm up its sanctions plan in time for a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday. EU energy ministers are also due to meet in the Belgian capital on Monday to discuss the issue.

Newsline: Vatican’s diplomatic envoy remained in Kyiv as many ambassadors left town

The first flurry of diplomats decamped from Kyiv in mid-February, well before shells began slamming into and around the historic city. The next wave of embassies packed up and left Ukraine’s capital a few weeks later, when the war began in earnest, moving their operations west and away from the fighting. Through it all, the Vatican’s diplomatic mission stayed put. In recent weeks, with Russian troops in broad retreat from the region, dozens of embassies have reopened in the city or announced plans to return. The United States said this week it would reopens its embassy. Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Holy See’s ambassador to Ukraine, said that as long as there was a city standing, he would stay. Without the consular workload of a typical embassy or the political or economic interests of a secular state, the considerations were different for the nunciature, as the Vatican’s diplomatic mission is known. “Bishops and priests, they stay with the people. I stay with the people because it’s part of my identity,” he said in a phone interview. (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/30/world/europe/pope-francis-kyiv-ambassadors.html) For weeks, Archbishop Kulbokas and his staff of five — down from the embassy’s normal staffing of 11 — worked, ate, prayed and slept in a couple of rooms on the ground floor of the nunciature, a yellow-walled five-story building in the tree-lined Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv. His days have been filled fielding calls to coordinate humanitarian assistance, requests for help from within the country and offers of aid from Catholic organizations abroad, he said.

Newsline: EU diplomats to discuss Russian-oil embargo Wednesday

European Union countries are likely to approve a phased embargo on Russian oil as early as next week, officials say, sealing a measure that has divided the bloc’s members and highlighted their dependence on Russian energy sources. It has taken weeks for EU countries to agree on the contours of the measure, and talks will continue over the weekend before the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, puts a finalized proposal on paper for EU ambassadors to approve. The ambassadors will meet Wednesday, and they expect to give their approval by the end of the next week, several EU officials and diplomats involved in the process say. The diplomats and officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the progress of the talks. (https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/apr/30/eu-plans-for-russian-oil-embargo/) Barring a last-minute demand by Hungary, a country that is said to have dragged its feet, officials expect that the process should be completed without requiring an EU leaders meeting — avoiding the time-consuming effort of calling all 27 heads of state to Brussels. The embargo is likely to affect Russian oil transported by tankers more quickly than it would affect oil arriving by pipeline, which could take a matter of months. In both cases, however, it is likely that the bloc would allow its members to wind down existing contracts with Russian oil companies as it did with its coal ban, which was given four months to be fully put in place.