Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for June 1, 2022

Newsline: Russia’s Top Diplomat Pledges to Prioritize China Relationship

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, lauded the “inexhaustible potential” of his country’s strategic relationship with China on Wednesday. Moscow’s top diplomat called for more economic integration with its powerful neighbor as the war in Ukraine neared 100 days and the West’s wide-ranging sanctions continued to endanger Russia’s growth. In prepared remarks at the top of an academic conference hosted by state-backed think tanks from Moscow and Beijing, Lavrov said Russia’s cooperation with China continued to grow in “scale and intensity” despite punctuative measures and an “information war” led by the United States. Developing the “strategic partnership” between the two countries “remains among Russia’s foreign policy priorities,” he said. “The experience of working together in the new environment shows that our ties have a powerful, truly inexhaustible potential, and are confidently passing endurance tests.” (https://www.newsweek.com/russia-china-sergey-lavrov-wang-yi-strategic-partnership-1712000) Lavrov referenced the February 4 meeting in Beijing of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who further aligned themselves with a 5,000-word joint statement on cooperation that alarmed many in the West. The Russian diplomat then quoted his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, describing the Russia-China partnership as one of “no limits” and “no forbidden areas.” At the opening of the two-day event, at which Wang also spoke, Lavrov told participants that the two governments were “paying special attention to trade and economic cooperation,” with a strategic focus on energy.

Newsline: Russia and Saudi top diplomats praise OPEC+

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Riyadh and both men praised the level of cooperation inside OPEC+, the Russian foreign ministry said. “They noted the stabilising effect that the tight cooperation between Russia and Saudi Arabia has on world markets for hydrocarbons in this strategically important sector,” the ministry said in a statement on its website. (https://news.yahoo.com/russia-saudi-ministers-praised-level-001928326.html) There was no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia. Lavrov arrived in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday and is expected to meet with other foreign ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, Saudi state media reported. Russia is a leading member of OPEC+, along with some ex-Soviet states and other countries. The Wall Street Journal, quoting OPEC delegates, suggested that exempting Russia from OPEC+ could potentially pave the way for other producers to pump significantly more crude as sought by the United States and European nations. Lavrov’s meeting with his Saudi counterpart came shortly after the European Union agreed on significant cuts to imports of Russian crude as part of its latest sanctions.

Newsline: U.S. names career diplomat as new special envoy for Horn of Africa

U.S. Ambassador Mike Hammer will serve as the new U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday, taking up the position at a time of persistent political turmoil in the region. Blinken said the previous envoy, David Satterfield, was preparing to leave his post but did not give a date. Sources earlier told Reuters he would step down before summer. (https://news.yahoo.com/u-names-special-envoy-horn-133441832.html) Hammer will have to contend with multiple crises in the region, including conflict in Ethiopia that has sparked accusations of atrocities on both sides, and economic and political turmoil in Sudan following an October coup. Hammer is the U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a position to which he was confirmed in 2018, according to the embassy, and previously served as U.S. ambassador to Chile. He has held various other roles at the State Department and the White House. Satterfield, a long-time career diplomat with decades of experience, had replaced Jeffrey Feltman, another veteran U.S. diplomat who had stepped down at the end of last year after about nine months in the job. Feltman continues to serve in an advisory capacity.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy Denies Spreading Monkeypox in Nigeria

The American embassy in Nigeria has been compelled to release a statement denying the U.S. is responsible for engineering a deadly monkeypox outbreak in the country. Officials took the unusual step of addressing conspiracy theories head-on by issuing a 360-word rebuttal of the bizarre claims. The document, which was published to the website of the U.S. Consulate General, insists allegations that secret American laboratories are deliberately spreading the infectious disease are “pure fabrication.” “Recent misleading posts on social media wrongly speculate on the origin of the current global outbreak of monkeypox disease, and supposedly call for WHO [World Health Organization] to investigate so-called ‘U.S.-controlled laboratories’ in Nigeria,” the statement began. “Such reports are pure fabrication. There is zero merit to any allegations regarding the use of U.S.-assisted Nigerian laboratories in the spread of monkeypox. Furthermore, there are no ‘U.S.-controlled’ laboratories in Nigeria,” it said. (https://www.newsweek.com/america-denies-causing-monkeypox-nigeria-1711633) Conspiracy theories about the outbreak are not just festering in Nigeria. Recently, outlandish rumors spread on social media in the West claiming that Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates had somehow manufactured the disease. Experts have also branded dubious theories suggesting that monkeypox leaked from a lab in Ukraine or China as “nonsense.”

Newsline: French Diplomats to Strike Over Loss of Separate Status

When France, land of Talleyrand and the general strike, decides to abolish the heart of its diplomatic corps at a time of war in Europe, it is perhaps only natural that its diplomats should respond with fierce indignation. Irked by a decree quietly promulgated in the government’s Official Journal between the two rounds of the presidential election in April, seven labor unions representing the country’s diplomats have called a strike this week in protest at the “brutal suppression of the diplomatic corps.” The strike on June 2 would be only the second in the history of Quai d’Orsay — the Paris location of the foreign service that is the shorthand for the institution. It reflects the dismay sweeping through diplomatic ranks. The change pushed by President Emmanuel Macron would disband the two-century-old corps of senior career diplomats to merge about 800 of them into a “state administrative corps” made up of high-level public servants, who would then be interchangeably picked to serve as, for example, ambassador to Moscow or a director in the Ministry of Solidarity and Health. This is not precisely what diplomats who spent years studying a difficult language like Russian or Chinese had in mind for themselves. “To be a diplomat is a vocation, a choice of a very particular life,” said Gérard Araud, the former French ambassador to the United States. “Hence the revolt.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/31/world/europe/macron-diplomats-strike-france.html) When in 2019 Mr. Macron embarked on his contested policy of rapprochement with President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, he accused diplomats of undermining his efforts, now undone by Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine.