Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for January 23, 2023

Newsline: Latvia, Estonia expel Russian ambassadors

NATO and EU members Estonia and Latvia told their Russian ambassadors to leave after Moscow said it was downgrading diplomatic relations with Estonia, accusing it of “total Russophobia.” The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month, and both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador. Estonia responded in kind, telling the Russian envoy to leave by Feb. 7, Foreign Affairs Minister Urmas Reinsalu said. Latvia, in solidarity with Estonia, told its Moscow envoy to leave by Feb. 27, according to a tweet by Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Both countries said they are downgrading their diplomatic ties with Russia to charge d’affairs level. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/russia-downgrades-relations-with-nato-member-estonia-expels-envoy-2023-01-23/) Lithuania threw out its Russian envoy in April and downgraded diplomatic representation.

Newsline: EU Top Diplomats Adopt New Iran Sanctions

The European Union on Monday introduced new sanctions against Iran for a “brutal” crackdown on protests, but the bloc’s top diplomat said the country’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) cannot be listed as a terrorist group without a court decision. Sweden, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said the bloc’s foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday “adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression.” “The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, according to a Twitter post by the country’s EU diplomatic mission. (https://www.ibtimes.com/eu-agrees-new-iran-sanctions-wont-label-guards-terrorist-now-3659919) EU diplomats told Reuters last week the bloc was set to add 37 names to a blacklist of Iranian people and entities banned from travelling to Europe and subject to an asset freeze. Relations between the 27-nation EU and Tehran have deteriorated during stalled efforts to revive talks on its nuclear programme, worsening further as Iran has moved to detain several European nationals.

Newsline: Beijing’s tourism diplomacy is back

After nearly three years of closed borders and strict COVID-19 movement controls, China’s frontiers reopened two weeks ago, clearing the way for millions of Chinese to travel the world over the Lunar New Year holidays. Chinese tourists arrive are back but many countries are greeting the return of Chinese travelers with mixed signals. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Chinese-tourists-are-back-and-so-is-Beijing-s-tourism-diplomacy) Visitor flows and spending are being used by Beijing to reward friends and punish foes.

Newsline: Russia expels Estonian ambassador

Russia said on Monday it was expelling Estonian ambassador and downgrading diplomatic relations with Estonia, accusing Tallinn of “total Russophobia”. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had told the Estonian envoy he must leave next month, and both countries would be represented in each other’s capitals by an interim charge d’affaires instead of an ambassador. It said this was in response to an Estonian move to reduce the size of the Russian embassy in Tallinn. “In recent years, the Estonian leadership has purposefully destroyed the entire range of relations with Russia. Total Russophobia, the cultivation of hostility towards our country have been elevated by Tallinn to the rank of state policy,” it said. Commenting on the downgrading of ties, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “The Estonian regime has got what it deserved.” (https://neuters.de/world/europe/russia-downgrades-relations-with-nato-member-estonia-expels-envoy-2023-01-23/) Estonia and its Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania have been among a group of NATO allies arguing strongly for Germany to provide its Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine. Estonia joined other Ukrainian allies last week in sending more weapons of its own.