Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February, 2023

Newsline: Serbia, Kosovo back EU diplomacy plan

The leaders of Serbia and Kosovo have given tacit approval to a European Union-sponsored plan to end months of political crises and help improve their ties longer-term, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing talks between them. Speaking alone at a news conference after a series of meetings in Brussels, Borrell told reporters that Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti “have agreed that no further discussions are needed for the European Union proposal.” (https://www.foxnews.com/world/serbia-kosovo-back-eu-diplomacy-plan) Both countries want to join the EU, which has told them that they first need to sort out their differences.

Newsline: Top Japan Diplomat to Skip G-20 Talks in India

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi is unlikely to go to a meeting of G-20 foreign ministers in India from Wednesday due to a parliamentary committee meeting he is expected to attend, according to a government official. (https://news.yahoo.com/japan-top-diplomat-set-skip-032352872.html) It remains unclear whether Hayashi will be at a Friday meeting of the Quad nations, consisting of the US and Australia, alongside India, according to the official, who asked not to be identified in line with policy. The news was reported earlier by Japanese media, including the Nikkei newspaper. A deputy minister is likely to be dispatched in his place, the reports said.

Newsline: US top diplomat travels to Central Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Central Asia Tuesday to meet officials from all five former Soviet republics following the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Blinken’s visit to the capitals of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is his first to the region as the Biden administration’s top diplomat. (https://neuters.de/world/blinken-hold-talks-with-central-asian-nations-wake-ukraine-anniversary-2023-02-28/) Leaders in the region have been emboldened to stand up to Russia by their new-found leverage as Moscow looks to their markets and trade routes in a bid to circumvent Western sanctions. Blinken will meet the foreign ministers of all five Central Asian states in Astana on Tuesday before traveling on to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. U.S. officials say the Biden administration has stepped up engagement with the region in an effort to demonstrate the benefits of U.S. cooperation to countries facing economic fallout from the conflict to the west.

Newsline: US ambassador urges China to be ‘more honest’ about Covid origins

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said Monday that China will have to “be more honest about what happened three years ago in Wuhan with the origin of the Covid-19 crisis” if the US and China are going to be able to work together. Burns added that the Chinese surveillance balloon and Beijing’s position on the war in Ukraine are “two of the most important issues that we’re dealing with right now.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2023/02/27/politics/china-covid-origins-us/index.html) Burns’ comments on Covid were made in reference to strengthening the World Health Organization, in response to a question about political polarization in the US and how it impacts America’s standing and ability to tackle geopolitical challenges. Burns was speaking at a US Chamber of Commerce event the day after news emerged that the Department of Energy assessed with “low confidence” that the deadly pandemic likely originated from a lab leak. While Burns was not speaking specifically about the latest assessment, the Department of Energy’s new finding underscores how US intelligence agencies remain divided on the origins of the pandemic – in part because Beijing has not been cooperative with efforts to investigate the matter.

Newsline: Norwegian woke Russian diplomats in Oslo after 2 a.m. with air raid siren

A 73-year-old in Oslo gave Russian diplomats a rude awakening by blasting a siren outside their bedroom windows, according to a local report. On Friday night at around 2.30 a.m. local time, Kjetil Krane carried a loudspeaker out to an apartment block known to house workers at Oslo’s Russian embassy, Nettavisen reported. Standing in the freezing cold, Krane played the sound of a Japanese foghorn, which bears a striking resemblance to an air-raid siren, according to the outlet. (https://news.yahoo.com/norwegian-guy-woke-russian-diplomats-141510754.html) Krane told the outlet that he wanted the diplomats to wake up over the issue of the war, both literally and figuratively. In a poster he distributed around the neighborhood ahead of time, and pictured by Nettavisen, he gave advance warning and reassurance about his actions. Police were called out and patrolled the area, but only after Krane had left, according to Nettavisen.

Newsline: Egypt’s top diplomat visits Syria and Turkey first time in decade

Egypt’s foreign minister met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday in the first visits to Syria and Turkey by a top Egyptian diplomat in a decade. “The goal of the visit is primarily humanitarian, and to pass on our solidarity – from the leadership, the government and the people of Egypt to the people of Syria,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told reporters in Damascus. Egypt was looking forward to providing more quake assistance “in full coordination with the Syrian government” after already having donated some 1,500 tonnes, Shoukry added, standing alongside Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad. “When the foreign minister of Egypt comes to Damascus, he comes to his home, his people, and his country,” Mekdad said. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/egypts-foreign-minister-visits-syria-first-time-since-war-2023-02-27/) The earthquake killed more than 5,900 people in Syria, the bulk of them in the rebel-held northwest. In Turkey, the death toll stands at more than 44,000. Assad has benefited from an outpouring of Arab support since devastating earthquakes hit his country and neighbouring Turkey this month, helping to ease the diplomatic isolation he has faced over Syria’s civil war which began in 2011. The Arab League suspended Syria in 2011 over the government’s deadly crackdown on protests, and many U.S.-allied Arab states backed the opposition seeking to topple Assad. But a number of Arab states, most prominently the United Arab Emirates, have shifted approach towards normalising ties in recent years, after Assad defeated his insurgent enemies across much of the country helped by Iran and Russia. Shoukry did not respond to reporters’ questions on whether Egypt would support lifting the Arab League’s suspension of Syria.

Newsline: Criminal justice and mental illness balanced in NYC consulate rock throwing case

In the years before the NYPD arrested Reza Mashayekhi for hurling rocks through embassy windows in Midtown in 2020, he’d been tortured in Iran under suspicion of spying for the CIA, walked across America, and lost his father at a time when he needed him more than ever. He had no money, work, or community when he arrived in New York after a cross-country voyage and more than a year without access to health care critical to his mental stability. “I threw rocks through the consulate with no reason,” Mashayekhi, 37, told the Daily News. “The paranoia was bothering me.” (https://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/manhattan/ny-mental-health-court-graduates-nyc-legal-infrastructure-mental-illness-20230226-e2nhrbnlnzgznhf3jbpvafrddq-story.html) Then, he got lucky. Mashayekhi’s lawyers succeeded where many have not, convincing prosecutors to refer his case to a special mental health court in NYC that connects participants with community-based clinical care and supervision, housing, employment, and educational opportunities. After months of sitting on Rikers and in Bellevue’s prison ward, Mashayekhi was released from custody in February masha once his court-mandated treatment plan was ready. Now, three years after his arrest, he’s in control of his mental health and working in a job he loves. Mashayekhi’s case points to an important but not widely discussed reality: New York City has actually figured out a model to better balance law enforcement and mental health treatment, a problem that has long vexed the criminal justice system, according to both experts and data.

Newsline: Algeria to reopen its embassy in Ukraine

Algeria will reopen its embassy in Kyiv one year after it was closed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Algerian state television said on Sunday citing a foreign ministry statement. “This decision falls within the framework of preserving the interests of the Algerian state and the interests of the national community in this country,” state TV quoted the foreign ministry statement as saying. “The Algerian embassy in Kiev, which suspended its activities due to the deteriorating security situation in Ukraine, will be managed by the Chargé d’Affaires.” The decision to reopen the embassy will be effective “as soon as possible,” the statement read. (https://neuters.de/world/africa/algeria-reopen-its-embassy-kyiv-after-one-year-closure-2023-02-26/) The embassy closed in March last year.

Newsline: Beijing’s envoy says EU leaders may visit China by mid-2023

Chinese ambassador to the European Union Fu Cong said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel may visit China in the first half of 2023, China’s state-backed Global Times reported. Preparations for the visit by the EU’s top two officials are under way and “very frequent high-level mutual visits” between the EU and China are expected to begin soon, Fu said in an interview. Fu said in the interview that EU anger with China over Ukraine was “very irrational” and that China did not want the issue to affect the development of ties with the bloc. (https://neuters.de/world/china/chinas-eu-ambassador-says-eu-leaders-may-visit-china-by-mid-2023-2023-02-26/) After the Chinese foreign ministry published on Friday a position paper expounding its stance on the war, the EU’s top diplomat in China Jorge Toledo told reporters in Beijing that parts of the paper were concerning.

Newsline: Chinese officials confronts US diplomat

A diplomat with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with a US consul over remarks lamenting Hong Kong’s future under the Chinese Communist Party. U.S. Consul General Gregory May said that he was concerned about Hong Kong’s status as a business hub without the guaranteed freedoms enjoyed prior to the island’s return to China. “The National Security Law and actions taken by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities may negatively impact company staff, finances, legal compliance reputation and operations,” May said. May went on to warn that “companies should be aware that the risks faced in mainland China are now increasingly present here in Hong Kong.” (https://www.foxnews.com/world/chinese-officials-confronts-us-diplomat-draws-red-lines-hong-kong-speech) May’s comments incensed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, who have for years attempted to suppress criticism of their regime’s governance of the island. High-ranking CCP diplomat Liu Guangyuan reportedly met with May after the comments, complaining about the consul’s evaluation of Hong Kong.