Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 9, 2022

Newsline: Trump Wanted to Shut Down Every U.S. Embassy in Africa

The revelations keep on coming from Mark Esper’s new book about his time in the Trump administration. Politico on Monday morning published a new excerpt from A Sacred Oath, in which the former defense secretary expounds on the unhinged ideas Trump incessantly pushed and the efforts of those around him to convince the president to pursue more reasonable options. One such idea was to shut down the U.S. embassies in Africa. “Shut down the embassies in Africa,” Esper writes that Trump said said, noting that he did so regularly. “Bring our people [U.S. diplomats] home.” (https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/trump-wanted-shut-down-every-161918386.html) Trump hasn’t exhibited very much much affection for Africa’s 50-plus countries since entering politics. He famously described African nations as “shithole countries” during an immigration debate in 2018, drawing widespread condemnation.

Newsline: Turkey’s honorary consul in Haiti says 8 Turkish citizens kidnapped

Eight Turkish citizens have been kidnapped in Haiti’s capital, an official told The Associated Press on Monday, apparently the latest in a string of high-profile kidnappings by powerful gangs. Hugues Josue, Turkey’s honorary consul in Haiti, said the group had boarded a bus in the neighboring Dominican Republic and were kidnapped late Sunday afternoon in the Croix-des-Bouquets neighborhood of Port-au-Prince. Josue said he did not have any details on a potential ransom request, and no additional information was immediately available. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/official-8-turkish-citizens-kidnapped-from-bus-in-haiti/2022/05/09/77facffe-cfb0-11ec-886b-df76183d233f_story.html) Croix-des-Bouquets is controlled by the 400 Mawozo gang, which kidnapped 17 members of a U.S.-based missionary group in the same area last October. The gang demanded $1 million in ransom and held most of them until December. A diplomat from the Dominican Republic was kidnapped in the same neighborhood earlier this month and later freed.

Newsline: Norway’s foreign ministry slams Afghan edict demanding women cover up

Norway has slammed the latest Afghan Taliban edict demanding women cover up head to toe in public and warned that Afghanistan’s new rulers are “steering the country toward a humanitarian, economic and human rights catastrophe.” “I am outraged by the announcement that warns that women in Afghanistan must cover their faces in public, cannot drive a car and only leave home when necessary,” a statement from Henrik Thune, Norway’s deputy foreign minister, said Sunday. Thune said the edict is “completely unacceptable” and stressed that although the Taliban are in power, “they are still an isolated and non-representative government.” “The Taliban’s policies continue to oppress women and girls, instead of addressing the economic crisis and the need for an inclusive government,” he said. (https://news.yahoo.com/norway-slams-afghan-taliban-edict-090437884.html) Norway hosted three days of talks in January between the Taliban, Western diplomats and other delegates at closed-door meetings in the snow-capped mountains above the Norwegian capital of Oslo. The Taliban decree, announced on Saturday, ordered all Afghan women to wear all-covering clothing in public, the traditional burqa, and threatened to punish their male relatives in cases of noncompliance. It evoked similar restrictions on women and other hard-line measures imposed by the Taliban during their previous, 1996-2001 rule of Afghanistan.

Newsline: Russian ambassador to Poland hit with red paint

Russia’s ambassador to Poland was splattered by red paint thrown at him by protesters opposed to the war in Ukraine, preventing him from paying respects on Monday at a Warsaw cemetery to Red Army soldiers who died during World War II. Ambassador Sergey Andreev arrived at the Soviet soldiers cemetery to lay flowers on Victory Day, which marks the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies. The holiday was celebrated with pomp in a parade at Red Square in Moscow. As he arrived at the Soviet Soldiers Cemetery in the Polish capital, Andreev was met by hundreds of activists opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Video footage shows red paint being thrown from behind Andreev before a protester standing beside him throws a big blob of it in his face. (https://www.aol.com/russian-ambassador-poland-hit-red-104938503-115945588.html) The protesters prevented the ambassador and others from laying their flowers at the cemetery. Police arrived at the scene to help the ambassador and other members of his delegation get away.

Newsline: Top Diplomat Says EU Should Seize Russian Forex Reserves

The European Union should seize Russia’s foreign exchange reserves to pay for the reconstruction of Ukraine, the EU’s top diplomat said in an interview published on Monday. “I would be very much in favour because it is full of logic,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, told the Financial Times. (https://ph.investing.com/news/forex-news/eu-should-seize-russian-forex-reserves-says-blocs-top-diplomat-608878) Russia holds over a quarter of its foreign reserves in Germany, France, and Austria. Around another quarter is held by G7 members – the U.S., U.K., and Japan. Seizing reserves would face significant legal hurdles, and would risk undermining global trust in an international financial system that has run for decades on the assumption that reserves – essential for the smooth processing of global trade – were essentially inviolate, however bad relations between countries became. However, the bloc faces few more attractive options for rebuilding Ukraine if and when Russian troops withdraw. In addition, there is precedent for such a step, when the U.S. set aside $3.5 billion of Afghanistan’s dollar reserves to pay compensation to the victims of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The attacks had been planned from Afghan territory by Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Newsline: US accelerates plans to reopen Kyiv embassy

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told his Ukrainian counterpart that this progress — marked by Kiev Embassy charge d’affaires Kristina Kvien’s visit Sunday to commemorate V-E Day — is “a testament to Ukraine’s success [and] Moscow’s failure” in the early phase of Vladimir Putin’s war, the senior official told Axios. (https://www.axios.com/2022/05/08/biden-kyiv-embassy-reopen) It’s the culmination of a behind-the-scenes effort led by Blinken to have U.S. diplomats return to Kyiv at the earliest possible date after their evacuation in the weeks before Russia’s invasion on Feb. 24. “The secretary relayed to his senior team and to [Ukrainian] Foreign Minister [Dmytro] Kuleba that our return to Kyiv is a testament to Ukraine’s success, Moscow’s failure and our effective and enduring partnership with the government and people of a sovereign, democratic and free Ukraine,” said the senior official.