Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for September, 2022

Newsline: Montenegro expels six Russian diplomats and 28 foreigners

A day after it expelled six Russian diplomats, NATO member Montenegro on Friday revoked residence permits and banned entry to 28 foreign citizens it accused of spreading “malign influence” in the interest of unidentified foreign services. The move was part of “continued and coordinated” activities, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, offering no further detail. Media and officials said the group included a former ambassador to Montenegro of neighboring Serbia. The six Russian diplomats were asked to leave the country over “breaches of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement on Twitter on Thursday. Russia in response closed down its consular services in Montenegro. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/montenegro-bans-entry-to-28-foreigners-for-malign-activity/2022/09/30/199cd1b2-40e6-11ed-8c6e-9386bd7cd826_story.html) Also on Thursday police raided multiple locations as part of a spy ring investigation that the government said was prepared and coordinated with Montenegro’s international partners and aimed at protecting national security.

Newsline: Several protesters tried to enter Iranian Embassy in Oslo

Several protesters attempted to enter the Iranian Embassy in Oslo, police said, with scuffles breaking out and rocks being thrown at officers. A crowd had gathered outside the diplomatic mission in Oslo to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody in Iran after she was detained by Iran’s morality police. Several were shouting, others had Kurdish flags around their shoulders. Some called for freedom for Kurdistan, women’s freedom and shouted the name of Amini. Police in the Norwegian capital said “many people were behaving violently.” Authorities said 90 people had been detained.

Newsline: China lashes out at complaints over quarantining US diplomats

China on Friday dismissed complaints from U.S. congressmembers over the quarantining of American diplomats and their family members under the country’s strict COVID-19 regulations. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China “adopts a science-based and effective epidemic prevention protocol for both Chinese and foreigners coming to China without discrimination.” The policy, Mao said, is “open and transparent.” Regardless of their status, all U.S. visitors accepted China’s epidemic policies, including post-entry medical observation and health monitoring, Mao told reporters at a daily briefing. “Such statements by individual U.S. lawmakers are really absurd and completely groundless,” Mao said, adding that the congressmen appeared to be showing signs of “China phobia.” (https://news.yahoo.com/china-dismisses-complaints-over-quarantining-093158625.html) Republicans James Comer of Kentucky and Michael T. McCaul of Texas wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday asking for clarification on the quarantining of U.S. diplomats and family members by the People’s Republic of China. “U.S. Embassy officials in Beijing recently confirmed that 16 U.S. diplomats and their family members — throughout the pandemic — have been involuntarily held in quarantine camps and subjected to strict confinement measures with no definitive release date,” their letter stated. The letter followed an article in the Washington Post newspaper in July which cited the embassy saying 16 U.S. diplomatic personnel or their family members had “been sent, against their will, to Chinese government medical quarantine centers since the pandemic began.” It said the State Department concluded that was a “clear violation” of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and that U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns has since secured a promise that U.S. diplomats and their family members would be allowed to quarantine in their homes or at the embassy rather at government-run isolation centers notorious for poor hygiene, overcrowding and a lack of privacy. The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment on the letter on Friday.

Newsline: Diplomat says EU countries remain divided on gas price caps

European Union countries are split over whether to cap gas prices, which they will discuss at a meeting of the bloc’s energy ministers on Friday, a senior EU diplomat said. “On the price caps at this moment there is nothing near like a consensus,” the diplomat said. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/eu-countries-remain-divided-gas-170515617.html) The diplomat added it was “difficult” to predict if consensus could be reached among countries on imposing a price cap on Russian gas alone.

Newsline: Top Cuban diplomat pledges to negotiate with the United States

Cuba’s top diplomat said his country’s officials have no choice but to engage the United States in negotiations to normalize relations, despite a decade of diplomatic whiplash and mixed messages from Washington. In an interview with The Hill, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla responded to a question posed by former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes on whether Cuban officials would “ever, ever negotiate anything with America ever again after this?” “We will have to,” said Rodríguez Parrilla, who was in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly. “We will have to, first, because there is a historical trend that will, at some point, force us to reestablish dialogue and lift the blockade.” (https://news.yahoo.com/top-cuban-diplomat-negotiate-united-100000389.html) After a historic and controversial push to normalize relations between Washington and Havana under former President Obama, the Trump administration did an about-face, most famously adding Cuba to a list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Biden administration, though less hawkish than the Trump administration, has not taken major steps to normalize relations, including keeping Cuba on the terrorism watchlist.

Newsline: China Seen Pursuing Aggressive Diplomacy

China signalled on Thursday no let-up in its combative approach to foreign policy in a third term for Xi Jinping as leader despite criticism from many Western diplomats that the so-called Wolf Warrior stance has been counterproductive. As relations with the West have soured over issues from trade and human rights to COVID-19, Chinese diplomats have often been confrontational on the public stage, including on social media, a stridency that some critics see as intended for a domestic audience that nonetheless hurts its foreign ties. “We Chinese will not capitulate. We will not sit and do nothing while our country’s interests are being harmed,” Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said in response to a Reuters question at a Thursday news conference to discuss Chinese diplomacy in the decade since Xi assumed power. “Going forward, Chinese diplomats will continue to overcome all obstacles, and always be the devoted guardians of the interests of our country and our people,” said Ma. (https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2022-09-29/china-signals-no-let-up-in-its-aggressive-diplomacy) He is considered to be among contenders to replace Wang Yi as foreign minister in an upcoming leadership reshuffle.

Newsline: Spain summons Iran ambassador over protests crackdown

Spain summoned the Iranian ambassador to express its opposition to the heavy-handed crackdown on mass demonstrations across Iran that have claimed dozens of lives, a diplomatic source said. In a statement, the ministry expressed Spain’s “absolute condemnation” of the violence against peaceful demonstrators and in particular its “abhorrence of the violence against Iranian woman and their rights”. “The foreign ministry has summoned the Iranian ambassador in Madrid to express its objection over the repression of the protests and the violation of women’s rights,” the source said. (https://www.thelocal.es/20220928/spain-summons-iran-ambassador-over-protests-crackdown/) It urged the Iranian authorities to carry out “an independent investigation (into the bloodshed) and to establish responsibility in a transparent, objective and thorough manner” while “ending all arbitrary arrests” of journalists and other citizens exercising their civic freedoms.

Newsline: Georgia summons Belarus ambassador

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Ambassador of Belarus to Georgia following the visit of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to the Abkhazia region. (https://georgiatoday.ge/georgian-mfa-summons-belarus-ambassador-following-lukashenkos-visit-to-abkhazia/) As previously reported, Alexander Lukashenko arrived in Abkhazia on Wednesday and met with its de-facto leader Aslan Bzhania in Bichvinta. While in office, it was the first time for Alexander Lukashenko to enter Abkhazia. It is noteworthy that Belarus does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia or Tskhinvali region.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy in Moscow urges American citizens to leave Russia ‘immediately’

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow is urging American citizens residing in Russia to leave immediately. “U.S. citizens should not travel to Russia and those residing or traveling in Russia should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain,” the embassy said in a security alert. The embassy urged U.S. citizens to make independent arrangements “as soon as possible,” as commercial flight options are extremely limited but overland car and bus routes are still open. The embassy said it has limited options to help Americans in Russia, whose transportation options “may suddenly become even more limited.” “Avoid all political or social protests and do not photograph security personnel at these events,” the embassy warned. “Russian authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who have participated in demonstrations.” (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/us-embassy-in-moscow-urges-american-citizens-to-leave-russia-immediately/ar-AA12lE9h) The alert also warned Americans that Russia may refuse to acknowledge U.S. citizenship for dual nationals, try to prevent their departure from Russia, prevent access to consular assistance or even conscript dual nationals for military service.

Newsline: EU diplomats discuss price cap on gas

Eyes were on the EU executive European Commission, which was expected to present an analysis on the feasibility of the bloc capping gas prices during a meeting of diplomats from the 27 EU member states on Wednesday. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/1-eu-countries-odds-over-141709282.html) European Union countries were at odds on Wednesday over whether to cap gas prices in the bloc, with France, Belgium and 13 other states stepping up their call for the move opposed by Germany and others. The Commission’s document would not include legal proposals, sources said, but rather present an assessment of options countries could use to tackle high gas prices, which are stoking record inflation across the bloc and threatening a recession. A group of 15 countries including France, Italy, Spain and Poland urged the Commission on Tuesday to propose a price cap on all wholesale gas transactions to help rein in surging prices. But with Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark among those arguing that a gas price cap would harm efforts to contain Europe’s energy crunch, there were doubts as to whether any potential proposal could win sufficient support to become law.