Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for June 30, 2022

Newsline: Russia scolds British ambassador over ‘offensive’ UK comments on nuclear weapons

Russia said on Thursday it had summoned the British ambassador to voice a strong protest against “offensive” British statements, including about alleged Russian threats to use nuclear weapons. The Russian Foreign Ministry said a strong protest was expressed to Ambassador Deborah Bronnert over “the frankly boorish statements of the British leadership regarding Russia”. It said Bronnert was handed a memorandum stating that “offensive rhetoric from representatives of the UK authorities is unacceptable.” The ministry said Russia had told her it objected to British statements containing “deliberately false information, in particular about alleged Russian ‘threats to use nuclear weapons’”. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/russia-scolds-british-ambassador-over-offensive-uk-comments-on-nuclear-weapons-1050761) It was not immediately clear what specific remarks the statement was referring to. Britain has voiced strong support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and provided it with weapons, making it a frequent target of Kremlin criticism.

Newsline: Diplomats ironing out deal between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt on Red Sea islands

Diplomats and lawyers from the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are working on a complex choreography of agreements, understandings and letters that will allow a deal around two strategic Red Sea islands to be inked ahead of President Biden’s visit to the Middle East next month, three Israeli officials told me. The deal would be a significant foreign policy achievement for the Biden administration in the Middle East and could open the way for a gradual warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. But because Saudi Arabia and Israel don’t have diplomatic relations and can’t sign official bilateral agreements directly, the countries involved are trying to use creative legal and diplomatic solutions to try to indirectly finalize a deal. Despite public protests in Egypt, the Egyptian parliament in June 2017 and the country’s supreme court in March 2018 approved a deal to transfer sovereignty back to Saudi Arabia. But the deal needed buy-in from Israel because of the 1979 peace treaty. Israel gave in principle its approval to transfer the islands back to Saudi Arabia pending an agreement between Cairo and Riyadh on continuing the work of the multinational force of observers who are in charge of patrolling the islands and ensuring that freedom of navigation in the strait remains unhindered. The Biden administration for months has been quietly mediating among Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt on a deal that will finalize the transfer of the islands from Egypt to Saudi control. At the center of the mediation efforts is the issue of how to meet the Saudi demand that the U.S.-led multinational force leave the islands while maintaining the same security arrangements and political commitments the Israelis need, as Axios previously reported. (https://www.axios.com/2022/06/29/israel-saudi-arabia-egypt-red-sea-deal-normalization) Israeli officials want to make sure any commitment the Egyptians made in their peace agreement with Israel is still binding for the Saudis, especially the agreement to allow Israeli ships through the Straits of Tiran. The Saudi and Egyptian embassies in the U.S. did not respond to requests for comment.

Newsline: Russia will respond to Bulgaria’s ‘hostile’ expulsion of diplomats

The Russian Embassy to Sofia said that Bulgaria’s decision to expel 70 Russian diplomatic staff was a hostile action to which Moscow would respond accordingly. In a statement on its Telegram channel, Ambassador Eleonora Mitrofanova said that declaring 34 diplomats and 36 staff personae non gratae together as a list was an “unprecedented hostile step.” “The government of the Russian Federation is reserving its right of reciprocal, possibly asymmetric response to such hostile actions,” she said. (https://whtc.com/2022/06/29/russia-will-respond-to-bulgarias-hostile-expulsion-of-diplomats-2/) Bulgaria said on Tuesday that it had expelled the diplomatic staff over espionage concerns.

Newsline: Canada Opens New Embassies In Eastern Europe

Canada said it would boost its diplomatic presence in central and eastern Europe as well as the Caucasus, opening four new embassies to “help counter Russia’s destabilizing activities” in the region, as the war in Ukraine drags on. “Canada is announcing that we are increasing our diplomatic footprint. Canada will be opening four new embassies in Estonia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Armenia,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Madrid. “This diplomatic expansion will help guide Canada’s response to evolving security threats, enhance political and economic cooperation to support European allies, and further counter the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and support Armenia in its democratic development,” the ministry said in a statement. (https://www.ibtimes.com/canada-opens-new-embassies-eastern-europe-amid-ukraine-war-3556548) The announcement came as Group of Seven and NATO leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meet this week, with how best to support Kyiv in its battle with Moscow atop the agenda of both summits.