Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 22, 2022

Newsline: State Department silent on evacuation of Peace Corps employee who killed woman in Tanzania

Officials at the Peace Corps have for months been managing the fallout from revelations that an agency employee killed a woman in Africa in 2019 during a reckless driving spree that started after he went to a bar and picked up a sex worker. The federal agency’s top executive pledged to explore reforms and acknowledged the “pain, anger, and sadness” the incident had caused. Former Peace Corps volunteers rallied to support the deceased woman’s children, many saying they felt ashamed of their service. And the agency’s internal watchdog began quietly examining the former employee for a second time, looking into whether he has a history of hiring sex workers overseas. Meanwhile, another federal agency involved in what some have called the most shameful part of the incident — arranging for the man a medical evacuation that took place before Tanzanian authorities could charge him — has avoided nearly all scrutiny. Officials from the U.S. Department of State have declined to release any information about the fatal incident caused by John M. Peterson, who at the time was a high-ranking Peace Corps employee in Tanzania. The agency, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, recently said it did not have a single record showing internal communications about the case. Yet USA TODAY found agency staff have been closely involved, including helping arrange for Peterson’s departure from the country and investigating the incident alongside the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General. (https://news.yahoo.com/state-department-silent-evacuation-peace-150013870.html) Peace Corps CEO Carol Spahn, speaking about the process of ordering a medical evacuation for an overseas Peace Corps employee, said the State Department makes that call.

Newsline: Turkey summons U.S. envoy over demonstration alert

Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned the ambassador of the United States on Sunday to convey discomfort over an alert the embassy published on its website related to an opposition rally in central Istanbul, foreign ministry sources said. (https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/turkey-summons-us-envoy-over-demonstration-alert-sources-2022-05-22/) Thousands gathered for a rally on Saturday to protest the conviction of leading Turkish opposition politician Canan Kaftancioglu for insulting the president and the state. The U.S. embassy in Turkey released an alert on its website on May 18 warning of possible police intervention during the opposition demonstration. The foreign ministry sources said Ankara told Ambassador Jeff Flake that there were unfounded claims on the U.S. alert regarding the measures taken by the Turkish police forces during demonstrations. U.S. embassy officials were not immediately available for comment.

Newsline: U.S. eyes stronger Indo-Pacific Economic diplomacy to counter China’s influence

President Joe Biden headed to Japan on Sunday to launch a plan for greater U.S. economic engagement with the Indo-Pacific, facing criticism even before the programme is announced that it will offer scant benefit to countries in the region. On the second leg of his first Asia trip as president, Biden is to meet with leaders of Japan, India and Australia, the “Quad,” another cornerstone of his strategy to push back against China’s expanding influence. (https://news.yahoo.com/japan-biden-launch-economic-plan-064255157.html) In Tokyo on Monday, Biden will call on Emperor Naruhito before talks with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. He and Kishida are expected to discuss Japan’s plans to expand its military capabilities and reach in response to China’s growing might. Tokyo will also see the launch on Monday of Biden’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF), a programme intended to bind regional countries more closely via common standards in areas including supply-chain resilience, clean energy, infrastructure and digital trade. Washington has lacked an economic pillar to its Indo-Pacific engagement since former President Donald Trump quit a multinational trade agreement now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, leaving the field open to China to expand its influence.

Newsline: US envoy meets Taliban diplomat

The US special envoy on Afghanistan met with the Taliban’s chief diplomat on Saturday and stressed international opposition to the group’s treatment of women and girls. Since surging back to power last year, the Taliban have imposed a slew of restrictions on civil society, many focused on reining in the rights of women and girls. Earlier this month, Afghanistan’s supreme leader ordered women to cover up fully in public, including their faces, ideally with the traditional burqa. “Girls must be back in school, women free to move & work w/o restrictions for progress to normalized relations,” US Special Representative on Afghanistan Thomas West wrote on Twitter of his meeting in Qatar with the Taliban’s foreign minister Amir Khan Mutaqi. “Dialogue will continue in support of Afghan people and our national interests,” West said in his post. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/us-envoy-meets-taliban-diplomat-presses-women-s-rights/ar-AAXzajk) The two also discussed economic stabilisation in Afghanistan and concerns over attacks on civilians, West added. The country is teetering on the verge of economic disaster, after various nations froze Afghanistan’s assets held abroad and cut off aid.