Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for January, 2023

Newsline: South Korean embassy in Beijing warns of PCR tests upon arrival

China plans to require all passengers on direct flights from South Korea to undergo a PCR test upon arrival, starting from Feb. 1, the South Korean embassy in Beijing said. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said, “It is regrettable that individual countries persist on implementing discriminatory entry restrictions against China, to which China is firmly opposed and has reason to take reciprocal measures against.” (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/skorea-considers-early-easing-covid-visa-curbs-travellers-china-yonhap-2023-01-31/) She was responding to a query about China mandating COVID test for inbound travellers from South Korea. South Korea’s foreign ministry said its quarantine measures were based on scientific grounds for people’s protection. “There should never be any restrictions based on factors other than quarantine, and we are also communicating with the Chinese side as necessary,” the ministry added in the transcript of a news briefing. The curbs have hit air traffic links, one airline official said.

Newsline: China’s diplomat condemns Czech president-elect’s Taiwan call

China’s diplomat condemned on Tuesday a phone call between Czech President-elect Petr Pavel and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen, saying he ignored Beijing’s repeated attempts at dissuasion. “Czech President-elect Pavel ignored China’s repeated attempts to dissuade him and our repeated representations,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning Mao told reporters. “He has persisted in stepping on China’s red line, seriously interfering in China’s domestic affairs and hurting the feelings of the Chinese people.” (https://neuters.de/world/china-slams-czech-president-elect-over-phone-call-with-taiwan-president-2023-01-31/) Monday’s call was a diplomatic breakthrough for the China-claimed island, which has no formal relations with Prague.In 2016, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump also spoke by phone with Tsai, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing.

Newsline: Sudan releases man found guilty of killing U.S. diplomat

A Sudanese man facing the death penalty in connection to the killing of an American diplomat in 2008 has been released, his brother told Reuters on Monday. Abdelraouf Abuzeid, who was found guilty in the killing of U.S. diplomat John Granville, was released by the country’s high court two years after a financial settlement was reached between the Sudanese government and Granville’s family, his brother said. The U.S. State Department said it was aware of reports of Abuzeid’s release. “Our embassy is engaging government officials to obtain more information. We call for full accountability for the murders of John Granville and his Sudanese colleague Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama,” a State Department spokesperson said. (https://neuters.de/world/sudan-releases-man-found-guilty-killing-us-diplomat-family-2023-01-30/) The spokesperson added that Abuzeid remains listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by Washington. He has been so designated since 2013. Granville and Abdelrahman Abbas Rahama were both employees of the U.S. Agency for International Development. They were killed by gunmen in Khartoum in 2008.

Newsline: New U.S. ambassador to Moscow heckled by crowd

The United States’ new ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, was heckled by a crowd of people chanting anti-U.S. slogans on Monday as she entered the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow to present her diplomatic credentials. The group held hand-painted placards carrying messages criticising Washington, one of which read “Your tanks are killing civilians”. Protests in Russia – particularly on issues related to the war – are banned unless they have the backing of the authorities. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Tracy he expected her to follow the principle of not interfering in Russia’s internal affairs, the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported. The U.S. Embassy said: “Ambassador Tracy is focused on maintaining dialogue between our capitals at a time of unprecedented tension, protecting the interests of U.S. citizens detained in Russia, and supporting ties between the American and Russian peoples.” (https://neuters.de/world/new-us-ambassador-russia-heckled-by-pro-kremlin-protesters-2023-01-30/) Relations between Washington and Moscow are near all-time lows. The United States has responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by supplying Kyiv with weaponry – soon to include main battle tanks – and imposing a swathe of new economic sanctions on Russia, all in concert with Western allies.

Newsline: U.S. embassy warns of possible terrorist attacks in Turkey

The U.S. embassy in Turkey warned Americans on Monday of possible attacks against churches, synagogues, and diplomatic missions in Istanbul, marking its second such notice in four days, following Koran-burning incidents in Europe. In an updated security alert, the U.S. embassy said “possible imminent retaliatory attacks by terrorists” could take place in areas frequented by Westerners, especially the city’s Beyoglu, Galata, Taksim, and Istiklal neighbourhoods. Turkish authorities are investigating the matter, it added. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/us-issues-another-warning-possible-terrorist-attacks-turkey-2023-01-30/) On Friday, several embassies in Ankara including those of the United States, Germany, France and Italy issued security alerts over possible retaliatory attacks against places of worship, following separate incidents in which the Muslim holy book, the Koran, was burned in Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark.

Newsline: Chinese embassy in Japan resumes visa issuance

A day after Chinese embassy in Japan said it had resumed the issuance of of ordinary visas for Japanese citizens travelling to the country, Tokyo pledged to continue monitoring COVID situation in China. Japan will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation in China and deal “flexibly” with border control measures, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said on Monday. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/japan-will-continue-monitor-covid-situation-china-govt-says-2023-01-30/) China had stopped issuing visas for Japanese nationals earlier this month after Japan toughened COVID-19 border control rules for travellers coming directly from China.

Newsline: Azerbaijan evacuates embassy in Iran

Azerbaijan evacuates embassy staff and family members from Iran on Sunday, the foreign ministry said, two days after a gunman shot dead a security guard and wounded two other people in an attack Baku branded an “act of terrorism”. After the attack, the Azeri foreign ministry said it summoned Iran’s ambassador in Baku to demand justice and would evacuate embassy staff from Tehran. It gave no further details, including whether the embassy would continue to function. Earlier, the ministry said the shooting was the result of Tehran failing to heed its calls for better security. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/azerbaijan-evacuate-embassy-iran-sunday-after-fatal-shooting-2023-01-29/) Police in Tehran have said they had arrested a suspect and Iranian authorities condemned Friday’s incident, but said the gunman appeared to have had a personal, not a political, motive. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called for “a comprehensive investigation” of the incident and sent his condolences to Azerbaijan and the dead man’s family, state media said. The incident came amid increased tensions between the neighbouring countries over Iran’s treatment of its large ethnic Azeri minority and over Azerbaijan’s decision this month to appoint its first ever ambassador to Israel.

Newsline: China’s top diplomat plans European tour

China’s top diplomat will visit Germany and Belgium next month in a bid to reset relations with a skeptical Europe, POLITICO can disclose. (https://www.politico.eu/article/china-top-diplomat-wang-yi-xi-jinping-european-tour-thaw-relations-eu/) Wang Yi will attend the Munich Security Conference and visit the EU headquarters, according to three diplomats with knowledge of his plan, although one diplomat said the precise dates of the Brussels trip have yet to be decided. The tour represents an opportunity to overcome strains in the relationship between China and Europe, amid Beijing’s continuing support for Moscow despite Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Wang has been promoted from foreign minister to the 24-person Politburo, the Communist Party’s ruling body, to oversee foreign affairs. He will be the highest-level official to visit Europe since the Communist Party Congress in October — which formalized Xi Jinping’s norm-breaking continuation at the helm of the world’s second-biggest economy — as well as China’s eventual end to the restrictive pandemic measures early this year.

Newsline: China’s panda diplomacy hits snag in Finland

A cash-strapped Finnish zoo said it was preparing to return two giant pandas on loan from China as it could no longer afford their upkeep. The pandas, named Lumi and Pyry, were brought to Finland in January 2018, nine months after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Nordic country and signed a joint agreement on protecting the animals. Ahtari Zoo, a private company which had hoped the pandas would bring visitors to the central Finland location, said it had instead accumulated mounting debts as the pandemic curbed travel. Finland’s government, which gave one-off support of 200,000 euros in 2021, declined an application for a 5 million euro ($5.4 million) grant. The foreign ministry said it had established a working group to seek a solution, but added there was no certainty one would be found. “If the pandas were returned, we believe that China would understand it would be a business decision of a private company in a difficult financial situation,” a ministry spokesperson said. “We do not believe that this would have wider effects on the relations between Finland and China.” (https://neuters.de/world/europe/cash-strapped-finnish-zoo-may-have-return-giant-pandas-china-2023-01-27/) A final decision on whether to return the pandas will be made on Feb. 28, the zoo said. China’s modern panda diplomacy dates back to at least 1972 when it donated two giant pandas to the United States.

Newsline: Brazil diplomat says Germany to announce investment in Amazon Fund

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will announce a fresh investment of 31 million euros ($33.7 million) in the multilateral Amazon Fund, a Brazilian diplomat said on Friday, ahead of the European leader’s official visit to Brasilia on Monday. (https://neuters.de/business/environment/scholz-announce-fresh-investment-amazon-fund-says-brazil-diplomat-2023-01-27/) The contribution will include 21 million euros to fight deforestation and 10 million euros to boost the Brazilian “bioeconomy,” ambassador Kenneth Nobrega told reporters.