Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for July 29, 2022

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.

Newsline: Germany Summons Myanmar Diplomat Over Executions

Germany’s foreign ministry said it had summoned a senior Myanmar embassy diplomat on Thursday to protest the junta’s execution of four prisoners, adding to a chorus of international condemnation. A foreign ministry spokesman confirmed to AFP that the summons for the charge d’affaires had taken place in Berlin, after the ministry’s director general for Asia and the Pacific wrote about it on Twitter. In her tweet, Petra Sigmund quoted Germany’s representative for East Asia and the Pacific, Martin Thuemmel, as saying that Berlin condemned the executions “most strongly” and called on Myanmar to reinstate the moratorium on the use of the death penalty “and end violence and repression”. (https://www.barrons.com/news/germany-summons-myanmar-diplomat-over-executions-01659033006) The words echo the condemnation the German foreign ministry issued earlier this week. It said it was “appalled” by the executions, which showed “the junta’s contempt for the strong democratic aspirations of the people of Myanmar”. The executions announced Monday are Myanmar’s first in decades and have heightened fears that more will follow, prompting calls for tougher international measures against the already-isolated junta. Among the four executed were Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) and veteran democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu — better known as “Ko Jimmy”. Both were sentenced to death under anti-terrorism laws