Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for January 18, 2023

Newsline: U.S. ambassador says Israel visa-waiver linked to West Bank travel for Palestinian-Americans

The United States expects Israel, under a visa-waiver deal being discussed between the allies, to enable free passage for Palestinian-Americans into the occupied West Bank, the U.S. ambassador said on Wednesday. Ambassador Thomas Nides said he expected an announcement soon on whether the number of Israeli applicants refused recent requests for U.S. visas had been kept to 3% or fewer, as required for a waiver deal. Israel would also have to ratify such a deal. “Number three, we have to be clear about reciprocity. Reciprocity will mean that Palestinian-Americans will be able to freely travel from Detroit to (Israel’s main airport) Ben-Gurion to Ramallah,” Nides told Ynet Radio, referring to the West Bank hub city that is the seat of Palestinian government. “And Americans who live in Ramallah will be able to go from Ramallah to Ben-Gurion back to Detroit,” he said. “When we get all those pieces working together, hopefully, then Israelis will not have to stand in line ever again to get a tourist visa – a visa to come to the United States.” Asked whether Israel was preparing special provisions for Palestinian-Americans to pass through its West Bank checkpoints, a military spokesperson said: “We have nothing new to relay.” (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/us-links-israel-visa-waiver-west-bank-travel-palestinian-americans-2023-01-18/) In an estimate that it says is based in part on U.S. census data, the Arab American Institute Foundation puts the number Palestinian-descended Americans at between 122,500 and 220,000. The Office of Palestinian Affairs in the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for the number of Palestinian-Americans domiciled in the West Bank. Some U.S. officials have privately put that number as being in the tens of thousands. The overall Palestinian population in the West Bank is 3.2 million, according to a Ramallah census.

Newsline: German embassy in Tehran seeks clarity on citizen’s arrest

Germany has taken note of the Iranian report and the embassy in Tehran is working to clarify the situation, a source in Berlin said. Iran has detained a German national for taking photos of “sensitive oil centres” in its southern province of Khuzestan, Iranian daily Jam-e Jam reported. “The German national was detained while taking photos of Aghajari oilfield in Khuzestan province,” the Jam-e Jam said, without elaborating. The Iranian judiciary had yet to comment on the report. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/iran-arrests-german-taking-photos-oil-centres-jam-e-jam-reports-2023-01-17/) Iran has been at odds with Western powers including Germany over what it calls their interference in its internal matters during months of anti-government protests sparked by the death in custody of an Iranian-Kurdish woman in September.

Newsline: Diplomatic spat between Guatemala, Colombia intensifies

A diplomatic row between Guatemala and Colombia deepened on Tuesday as Guatemala’s government accused Colombia’s defense chief of crimes related to a high-stakes graft probe he once led as a special prosecutor in Guatemala. On Tuesday, the minister at the center of the storm – Colombian defense chief Ivan Velasquez – took to Twitter to thank those who have rallied to his side, including President Gustavo Petro, while also touting the need to fight graft. “We know the monster, we’ve seen it up close,” wrote Velasquez, who was the head from 2013-2019 of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body that operated in Guatemala. “The fight against corruption has to be a goal, a collective action,” he added. Over the past year, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has faced a growing chorus of critics claiming he has slammed the brakes on anti-corruption efforts, as well as forcing some judges and prosecutors to flee the country. On Monday, Guatemala insinuated that Velasquez had committed crimes. A Guatemalan prosecutor later clarified that Velasquez is being investigated for “illegal, arbitrary and abusive acts” stemming from his investigation into an alleged bribery scheme involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Petro defended Velasquez, saying he would not accept any arrest warrant for him. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/guatemala-summons-ambassador-colombia-consultations-defense-minister-tussle-2023-01-17/) The spat led both nations to summon their ambassadors for consultations.