Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for July, 2022

Newsline: Iran says it responded to top EU diplomat’s proposal on 2015 nuclear deal

Iran has responded to top European Union diplomat Josep Borrell’s proposal aimed at salvaging Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, and seeks a swift conclusion to negotiations, the top Iranian nuclear negotiator said on Sunday. “We shared our proposed ideas, both on substance & form, to pave the way for a swift conclusion of Vienna negotiations,” Ali Bagheri Kani tweeted, without giving any more details on Iran’s position. “As Iran, we stand ready to conclude the negotiations in a short order, should the other side be ready to do the same.” (https://news.yahoo.com/iran-says-responded-eu-proposal-150538848.html) On Tuesday, Borrell said he had proposed a new draft text to revive the accord under which Iran curbed its nuclear programme in return for relief from economic sanctions. Then-U.S. President Donald Trump reneged on the deal in 2018 and reimposed U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to violate the deal’s nuclear limits. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal aimed to make it harder for Iran to amass the fissile material for a nuclear weapon, an ambition Iran has long denied, saying its atomic programme was for peaceful purposes.

Newsline: US Senate bill urges 3 new embassies in Pacific island nations

A bipartisan group of senators will introduce legislation to establish three new embassies in the Pacific Islands region to strengthen America’s relationships there and counter China’s growing influence. The “Pacific Islands Embassy Act,” co-led by Sens. JON OSSOFF (D-Ga.) and TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.), would establish new U.S. missions in Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tonga. As of today, America has a Fiji-based ambassador who concurrently serves as the representative to Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru, while the ambassador to Papua New Guinea is also accredited to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The goal of the bill is to have more U.S. diplomats directly engage more Pacific Islands’ governments — closing the gap between Beijing’s presence and America’s. “Strong U.S. diplomacy in the Pacific is essential. We must immediately establish a robust physical diplomatic presence in these strategic island nations,” Ossoff said in a statement. “Frankly, it is malpractice that the United States didn’t take this step a decade and a half ago. Time is of the essence.” (https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2022/07/29/senate-bill-urges-3-new-embassies-in-pacific-island-nations-00048693) The measure requires the secretary of State to inaugurate the missions no later than two years after the bill is signed into law. The top diplomat must also by that time recommend to the president who should serve as ambassadors in those embassies. The act authorizes $40.2 million in FY 2023 to construct the embassies — the same amount Ossoff asked appropriators to green light back in May — as well as $3 million in FY 2024 to maintain the buildings. The future of the bill is unclear, but it underscores the growing concern in Congress about America’s faltering presence in the Pacific islands.

Newsline: US envoy urges progress on Ethiopia peace talks

The new US envoy for the Horn of Africa called Saturday for progress in holding Ethiopian peace talks and for unrestricted aid deliveries to stricken areas of the country. Mike Hammer, who arrived in Addis Ababa on Friday, held talks with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen, the US embassy said. They discussed the “need for continued progress on ensuring unfettered humanitarian assistance delivery, human rights accountability & political talks to end the conflict & achieve a lasting peace”, the embassy said on Twitter. (https://www.msn.com/en-sg/news/world/us-envoy-urges-progress-on-ethiopia-peace-talks-aid/ar-AA1086qh) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the rival Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have both raised the prospect of peace talks to end the brutal conflict that erupted in November 2020. But major obstacles have emerged, not least over who should mediate any negotiations.

Newsline: Tunisia’s foreign ministry summons U.S. envoy

Tunisia’s foreign ministry said it summoned an official from the U.S. embassy after Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised concerns about Tunisia’s democracy. Tunisia’s Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi told U.S. acting chargé d’affaires Natasha Franceschi that the statement represented an unacceptable “interference in the national internal affairs”, the ministry said in a statement. (https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/tunisias-foreign-ministry-summons-us-envoy-2022-07-29/) Blinken expressed concerns about Tunisia’s democracy on Thursday after President Kais Saied introduced a new constitution giving himself far more powers, but the broad reaction among Western democracies was muted.

Newsline: Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine working off-site in Kyiv due to security concerns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the flag over the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv in May and announced it was reopening for business. But nearly three months on, Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine is not back at her old desk, and is instead working at another location in Kyiv with her staff for security reasons. (https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/canada/canada-s-ambassador-to-ukraine-working-off-site-in-kyiv-due-to-security-concerns/ar-AA1072KS) “Security concerns remain ongoing and therefore the ambassador and staff work off-site in Kyiv to ensure their safety,” said Jason Kung, a Global Affairs Canada spokesman.

Newsline: German, Turkish diplomats spar in Istanbul

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Friday urged Turkey to respect human rights during a testy visit at which she sparred openly with counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. (https://www.digitaljournal.com/world/german-turkish-diplomats-spar-in-istanbul/article) The former German Green party co-leader also rejected Turkey’s territorial claims to Greek islands in the Aegean and urged Ankara not to stage a mooted military incursion into northern Syria. Baerbock was paying her first visit to Turkey after holding talks in Greece that came with old rivalries between the two NATO defence alliance neighbours rising once again. Turkey accuses Greece of illegally arming its web of islands — some of them visible from the Turkish shore. Greece counters that Turkey is staging provocative military sorties over the region and threatening to go to war. “We cannot solve the problems of the east Mediterranean by escalating tensions,” she added during a joint media appearance with Cavusoglu. Cavusoglu retorted: “Why are you closing your Greece’s unlawful actions.” Turkey and Germany developed a warm friendship in the era of former chancellor Angela Merkel. But Baerbock was more critical of Turkey as leader of the leftist Green party and raised a number of what she called “difficult” issues in Istanbul.

Newsline: U.S., Russian top diplomats speak

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov by phone Friday and urged Moscow to accept a U.S. offer to release two Americans detained in Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner. Blinken did not provide details of Lavrov’s response to what he had previously called a “substantial proposal” for Russia to release two U.S. citizens in Griner and Paul Whelan. Blinken described the call as a “frank and direct conversation” centered primarily on the proposal for the release of the Americans. “I urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to move forward with that proposal,” Blinken said. “I can’t give you an assessment of whether that is any more or less likely.” (https://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/id/34312875/us-secretary-state-antony-blinken-discusses-brittney-griner-offer-top-russian-diplomat) The secretary of state had publicly requested the call and revealed the existence of the offer to Russia — which according to multiple reports involves convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Blinken declined to comment on how Lavrov replied to his messages, saying, “I don’t want to characterize any of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s responses.” Lavrov had said earlier Friday that he was open to a call with Blinken to discuss the prisoner exchange, even though the Foreign Ministry hadn’t been involved in previous discussions on the issue. Friday marked the first conversation between Blinken and Lavrov since Feb. 15.

Newsline: Belarus recalls ambassador to Britain over ‘hostile’ UK policy

Belarus recalled its ambassador to Britain on Friday in response to what it called “hostile and unfriendly” actions by London. In a statement, Belarus’ foreign ministry said Britain had adopted policies that were “systematically aimed at causing maximum damage to Belarusian citizens and legal entities,” citing sanctions on its companies, a ban on national airline Belavia and restrictions on Belarusian state media. (https://news.yahoo.com/belarus-recalls-ambassador-britain-over-100031818.html) Ties between Belarus and the West have plunged since the country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, cracked down hard on the opposition after a disputed 2020 presidential election. Lukashenko and Minsk have become increasingly isolated in the West and moved closer to the Kremlin for crucial financial, military and diplomatic support.

Newsline: Nicaragua withdraws approval of U.S. ambassador nominee

The Nicaraguan government has withdrawn its approval of the U.S. nominee for ambassador to Nicaragua, Hugo Rodriguez, following his criticism of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime, the Central American country said in a statement on Thursday. Rodriguez, who was set to replace current U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua Kevin Sullivan, told a U.S. Senate hearing earlier in the day that as ambassador, he would “support using all economic and diplomatic tools to bring about a change in direction in Nicaragua”. Nicaragua shot back following Rodriguez’s comments, which included calling a decision to potentially remove Nicaragua from the CAFTA-DR trade pact “something we have to seriously consider,” saying his remarks were “interfering and disrespectful.” “The government of Nicaragua, in use of its powers and in exercise of its national sovereignty, immediately withdraws the approval granted to the candidate Hugo Rodríguez,” Nicaraguan Foreign Minister Denis Moncada said in a statement. (https://www.investing.com/news/world-news/nicaragua-withdraws-approval-of-us-ambassador-nominee-2857456) Moncada added that Rodriguez could not interfere in Nicaragua’s internal political affairs, after the nominee stressed the United States will continue to press for the return of democracy to Nicaragua.

Newsline: Colombia and Venezuela to appoint new ambassadors, reopening diplomatic relations

Colombia’s incoming government and Venezuela will appoint ambassadors to the two countries’ capitals after years without diplomatic relations and will work to boost security along their shared border, officials said on Thursday. (https://news.yahoo.com/colombia-venezuela-appoint-ambassadors-reopening-202837887.html) The plan to appoint ambassadors was outlined in a joint declaration made by Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Carlos Faria, and Alvaro Leyva, the designated foreign minister of Colombia’s next president, Gustavo Petro, following a meeting in the border city of San Cristobal. The officials “expressed their willingness to move forward with a work agenda for the gradual normalization of bi-national relations starting next August 7 with the appointment of ambassadors and other diplomatic and consular officials,” Leyva told reporters. Petro, who will become Colombia’s first leftist president on Aug. 7, plans to fully reopen the border with neighboring Venezuela, following a breakdown in the two countries’ relations since 2015.