Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 16, 2022

Newsline: Kremlin scolds United States over attempts to recruit Russian embassy staff

The Kremlin said on Monday that reported attempts by the U.S. FBI and CIA to recruit embassy staff in Washington were unacceptable. “We do share the concerns of the head of our diplomatic mission in the United States about the really rather brazen behaviour of the American intelligence agencies in relation to our citizens and to the employees of our mission,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “We consider it unacceptable,” he said. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/kremlin-scolds-united-states-over-attempts-to-recruit-russian-embassy-staff-1002417) Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, told state media that embassy employees had been threatened with physical violence, and were frequently badgered in the vicinity of the Embassy to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency.

Newsline: Sweden sends diplomats to overcome Turkish objections to its NATO bid

Sweden will start diplomatic discussions with Turkey to try to overcome Ankara’s objections to its plan to join NATO, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist said, with a formal decision to apply for membership of the 30-nation alliance expected on Monday. “We will send a group of diplomats to hold discussions and have a dialogue with Turkey so we can see how this can be resolved and what this is really about,” Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist told public service broadcaster SVT. (https://news.yahoo.com/sweden-try-overcome-turkish-objections-072748778.html) Sweden’s ruling Social Democrats dropped their 73-year opposition to joining NATO on Sunday and are hoping for a quick accession, abandoning decades of military non-alignment following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. The government will take the formal decision to apply later in the day and can do so without a vote in parliament. Finland on Sunday confirmed it would apply to join the Atlantic military alliance. However, Turkey surprised its NATO allies by saying it would not view applications by Finland and Sweden positively, with President Tayyip Erdogan saying “Scandinavian countries are guesthouses for terrorist organisations”. Turkey said it wanted the Nordic countries to halt support for Kurdish militant groups present on their territory, and lift bans on sales of some weapons to Turkey. NATO and the United States said they were confident Turkey would not hold up membership of Finland and Sweden. Any decision on NATO enlargement requires approval by all 30 members of the alliance and their parliaments, but diplomats said Erdogan would be under pressure to yield.

Newsline: Iran’s foreign minister visits UAE on Monday

Iran’s top diplomat is expected to visit the United Arab Emirates on Monday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson said, welcoming the appointment of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan as the Gulf state’s president last week. “Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian is planning to travel to the UAE today,” Saeed Khatibzadeh told a televised weekly news conference. (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/irans-foreign-minister-plans-visit-uae-monday-spokesperson-2022-05-16/) Iranian state media said Amirabdollahian had left Tehran to pay respects to the Gulf country’s late President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed who died on Friday. Amirabdollahian’s visit is the highest level trip by an Iranian official to the Gulf country since Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement launched a deadly strike on the United Arab Emirates in January. In 2019, the UAE started engaging with Iran following attacks on tankers off Gulf waters and on Saudi energy infrastructure.

Newsline: China’s ex-ambassador predicted military defeat for Russia in Ukraine

China’s ex-ambassador Gao Yusheng predicted military defeat for Russia in Ukraine and claimed the country’s revival under Putin was “false”. In comments first published on the website of Phoenix News, he said: “The so-called revival or revitalization of Russia under Putin’s leadership is false; it simply does not exist. “Russia’s decline is evident in its economic, military, technological, political, and social spheres, and has had a serious negative impact on the Russian military and its war effort.” The former diplomat added: “The failure of the Russian blitzkrieg and the failure to achieve a quick victory signalled the beginning of the Russian defeat.” He also argued that Russia had lost “its strategic leadership and initiative” and could no longer decide “when and how” the war will end. (https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/china-humiliates-putin-as-ex-official-says-only-matter-of-time-before-russian-defeat/ar-AAXiv4F) The remarks will come as a major embarrassment and blow to Russia’s leader, who has carefully been courting Beijing’s support for his military adventurism in Ukraine. Gao Yusheng served as an ambassador to Ukraine for his country from 2005 until 2007 and is still regarded as an influential thinker on foreign affairs. Although he may not be able to directly influence China’s leaders, the former ambassador is still believed to be highly respected by academics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). CASS is an important think tank for the Communist Party and government.

Newsline: Mega-Consulate Ties U.S. to Convicted Billionaire in Nigeria

The U.S. has gone into business with a man once convicted of money laundering to build its largest consulate in the world. On March 31, billionaire Gilbert Chagoury stood atop the plot of land he’d dredged from the sea around Lagos, beaming in the sweltering heat alongside U.S. Consul-General to Nigeria Claire Pierangelo, as they broke ground for America’s largest consulate in the world. (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-10/mega-consulate-ties-u-s-to-convicted-billionaire-in-nigeria) As a cool spring rain fell on Washington that day, Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, of Nebraska, resigned from the House of Representatives after a conviction announced a week earlier. His crime: lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about illegal campaign contributions he’d received from Chagoury. The pageantry in Lagos obscured the uncomfortable fact that by placing its $537 million consulate on Chagoury’s Eko Atlantic development, the U.S. government was becoming the anchor tenant for a project run by a man who was once convicted of laundering money for a Nigerian dictator and who’s admitted to making illegal campaign contributions in the U.S.