Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for August 26, 2022

Newsline: Morocco recalls Tunisia ambassador over Western Sahara

Morocco recalled its ambassador to Tunisia on Friday after Tunisian President Kais Saied received the head of the Polisario Front movement that is seeking independence for Western Sahara, a territory Morocco regards as its own. Morocco said Tunisia’s decision to invite Brahim Ghali to a Japanese development summit for Africa that Tunis is hosting this weekend was “a grave and unprecedented act that deeply hurts the feelings of the Moroccan people”. In a terse foreign ministry statement, Morocco said it would no longer take part in the summit. It also accused Tunisia of having recently “multiplied negative positions” against Morocco, and that its decision to host Ghali “confirms its hostility in a blatant way”. (https://news.yahoo.com/morocco-recalls-tunisia-ambassador-over-185839088.html) The row opens a new front in a series of disputes over Western Sahara that have already dragged in Spain and Germany and escalated an overarching regional rivalry between Morocco and Algeria, the Polisario’s main backer. Tunisia has this year grown closer to Algeria, its most populous neighbour and one upon which it relies for energy, with Saied meeting Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune in July.

Newsline: Australian diplomats targeted by explosive device in Baghdad

A small homemade explosive detonated on Friday near Baghdad’s Green Zone as an Australian diplomatic convoy made its way into the area, two security officials told The Associated Press. (https://thehill.com/homenews/ap/ap-international/ap-explosive-detonates-in-baghdad-targets-australian-diplomats/) No injuries were reported. Despite the explosion, the Australian convoy was able to enter the Green Zone. The blast happened amid Australia’s diplomatic mission’s efforts to mediate between influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and an Iran-backed faction of rival Shiite parties, according to the security officials, to end one of Iraq’s worst political crises in recent years.

Newsline: Myanmar accused of “hostage diplomacy” following arrest of ex-U.K. ambassador

The Myanmar military’s recent arrest of a former British ambassador is an example of “hostage diplomacy,” activists and opposition politicians say. The detention of the ex-diplomat came as Britain moved to further isolate the Southeast Asian regime. Activists say the detention of Bowman, who is being charged for staying at a different address than the residence that she officially registered, reflects the growing impunity of the military. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/26/myanmar-arrest-vicky-bowman-hostage-diplomacy/) The junta has brutally crushed opposition over the past year and defied international appeals last month in executing four pro-democracy leaders. Many also see the arrest as an attempt to pressure foreign governments against undermining the regime, including with stronger sanctions. Vicky Bowman, who served as British ambassador to Myanmar from 2002 to 2006, was arrested Wednesday evening at her Yangon apartment along with her husband, Htein Lin, a renowned Burmese artist. They join the 15,000-plus people arrested by the military junta since it seized power in a coup in February 2021, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a nonprofit that tracks people persecuted by the regime. The figures include at least three other foreigners.

Newsline: Peruvian consulate in Bali accused of negligence

A Peruvian transgender rights activist has died in police custody in Bali. The relatives said that they were failed by the head of the Peruvian consulate in Bali, who they say did not respond to their messages. Peru’s foreign ministry has dismissed the family’s allegation that the arrest of the two men was an act of racial discrimination and transphobia. “It is widely known that Indonesia has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to possession of drugs and their derivatives,” their statement reads. (https://news.yahoo.com/bali-transgender-student-dies-police-135142169.html) Police arrested Rodrigo Ventocilla, 32, on 6 August at Denpasar airport, after customs officials found what they said were suspicious items in his baggage. He died five days later in hospital, where police had taken him after he had started vomiting, local media reported. Ventocilla’s family accuse police of mistreating the Harvard student and of barring lawyers they had hired from seeing him. Rodrigo Ventocilla, who was studying Public Administration at Harvard Kennedy School in the US, had travelled to Bali for his honeymoon. Ventocilla’s husband, Sebastián Marallano, arrived on a different flight and was detained later as he tried to help Ventocilla, a family statement says. The family alleges that Bali police asked for “exorbitant sums of money” in exchange for releasing the two men, an allegation police in Bali have not yet responded to. Both men were transferred by police to hospital on 9 August, with Ventocilla subsequently moved to another hospital, where he died on 11 August, the family statement adds. A police official said Ventocilla had been taken ill after consuming drugs which had not been confiscated from him during the search that had led to his arrest.