Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for July 20, 2022

Newsline: EU diplomats adopt embargo on Russian gold

European Union diplomats meeting in Brussels have adopted a new round of sanctions against Moscow for its war in Ukraine, including a ban on importing gold from Russia and freezing the assets of the country’s top lender Sberbank. It is the seventh EU package of sanctions on Russia. The last one passed in June imposed a ban on most Russian oil imports. “The main goal is to align with G7 partners, reinforce the implementation and close the loopholes where necessary,” the Czech government, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, tweeted on Wednesday. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/7/20/eu-adopts-embargo-on-russian-gold-freezes-sberbank-assets) Russia is the second-largest gold-producing nation in the world. Gold exports are a significant source of revenue for Russia in terms of their ability to transact with the global financial system. Last year, they were worth $15.45bn and wealthy Russians have been buying bullion to reduce the financial effect of Western sanctions.

Newsline: EU Envoy Endorses China’s ‘Peaceful Reunification’ With Taiwan

The European Union’s incoming ambassador to Beijing has struck a conciliatory tone by declaring the bloc’s support for China’s “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan, triggering displeasure in Taipei. “The EU does not advocate independence for Taiwan, but peaceful reunification,” Jorge Toledo, 57, told Spain’s La Vanguardia newspaper in an interview. “We believe there should be only one China, but in the event of a military invasion we have made it very clear that the EU, with the United States and its allies, will impose similar or even greater measures than we have now taken against Russia,” said Toledo, who is set to replace Frenchman Nicolas Chapuis as the EU’s ambassador to China. (https://www.newsweek.com/eu-china-taiwan-reunification-ambassador-jorge-toledo-1725869) The Spanish diplomat’s remarks about “one China” weren’t an obvious departure from the EU’s stated policy toward sensitive relations across the Taiwan Strait. However, his endorsement of “reunification”—phraseology favored by Beijing—added a new layer to the bloc’s otherwise cautious approach, which only promises to deepen economic ties with Taiwan while committing not to recognize the island’s statehood.

Newsline: China Disputes Report Europe Heads Invited to Beijing Meeting for In-Person Diplomacy

China flatly denied a report that President Xi Jinping had invited top European leaders to meet him in Beijing later this year, and was still awaiting their response, as tensions fray between Beijing and the bloc. “I don’t know what’s their source of information,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, referencing the South China Morning Post report. “I can tell you that is fake news,” he added, at a regular press briefing in Beijing. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/xi-beijing-invite-unanswered-top-011814594.html) The newspaper reported Monday that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had been asked to meet the Chinese president in Beijing this November, citing a person familiar with the matter. The leaders hadn’t yet replied to Xi, according to the SCMP, which didn’t clarify when the invite had been extended. The governments of France, Italy and Spain didn’t respond to the newspaper’s questions on the matter, and the German government refused to answer. The Beijing meeting, if confirmed, would coincide with the Group of Twenty summit set to be held in Bali from Nov. 15-16. It would also likely follow a major Communist Party congress in China, scheduled for the second half of this year, where Xi is poised to secure a landmark third term in office. Hosting the European leaders would mark a return to in-person diplomacy with the West for Xi, who hasn’t left his country since the outset of the pandemic in January 2020 due to the nation’s zero-tolerance virus strategy. Instead, he has participated in overseas summits via video link.

Newsline: China asks diplomatic missions in Geneva to stop UN rights chief from releasing Xinjiang report

China is asking the United Nations human rights chief to bury a highly-anticipated report on human rights violations in Xinjiang, according to a Chinese letter seen by Reuters and confirmed by diplomats from three countries who received it. (https://news.yahoo.com/china-seeks-stop-un-rights-154206024.html) United Nations High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has faced severe criticism from civil society for being too soft on China during a May visit and has since said she will refrain from seeking a second term for personal reasons. But before she leaves at the end of August, she has pledged to publish a report into the western Chinese region of Xinjiang. Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against Xinjiang’s Uyghur inhabitants, including the mass use of forced labour in internment camps. China has vigorously denied the allegations. The letter authored by China expressed “grave concern” about the Xinjiang report and aims to halt its release, said four sources – the three diplomats and a rights expert who all spoke on condition of anonymity. They said China began circulating it among diplomatic missions in Geneva from late June and asked countries to sign it to show their support. Liu Yuyin, a spokesperson for China’s diplomatic mission in Geneva, did not say whether the letter had been sent or respond to questions about its contents.