Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 15, 2023

Newsline: Turkey eyes earthquake diplomacy to mend Armenia ties

Humanitarian aid sent by Armenia for victims of last week’s devastating earthquake in Turkey could boost the neighbouring countries’ efforts to normalise their relations, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday. A border gate between the long-feuding neighbours was opened for the first time in 35 years to allow aid for quake victims in southern Turkey. Armenia also sent a rescue team to Turkey to help in the search for survivors. “Armenia has extended its hand of friendship, showed solidarity and cooperation with us in this difficult time … We need to continue this solidarity,” Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference in Ankara with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan. Mirzoyan said through a translator that Armenia remained committed to “the full normalisation of relations and complete opening of the border with Turkey”. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/turkey-says-earthquake-diplomacy-could-help-mend-armenia-ties-2023-02-15/) Turkey severed its diplomatic and commercial ties with Armenia in 1993 to show support for Azerbaijan, which was at the time fighting a losing battle against Armenian separatists in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

Newsline: China to resume issuing short-term visas for South Koreans starting Feb 18

China plans to resume issuing short-term visas for travellers from South Korea on Saturday, the Chinese embassy in Seoul said on Wednesday, after South Korea lifted similar visa curbs last week citing an improved COVID situation in its neighbour. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/china-resume-issuing-short-term-visas-south-koreans-starting-feb-18-2023-02-15/) China halted issuing short-term visas to South Koreans last month, a retaliatory move after South Korea had imposed a number of COVID restrictions on travellers from China following Beijing’s abrupt ending of its “zero-COVID” policy. Seoul had planned to impose visa curbs until end-February but restarted issuing visas last week, saying the number of infections among Chinese arrivals had dropped significantly.

Newsline: Diplomatic rift between U.S. and China deepens amid balloon controversy

A diplomatic spat between China and the United States deepened on Tuesday with Beijing accusing Washington of flying high-altitude balloons into its airspace and that of other countries, as the U.S. military examined debris of a suspected Chinese spy balloon it downed this month. The Chinese balloon, which Beijing denies was a spy vessel, spent a week flying over the United States and Canada before President Joe Biden ordered it shot on Feb. 4. The U.S. military has since carried out three more shootdowns as it combs the skies for objects that were not being captured by radar. The White House said on Tuesday it was still searching for debris from the most recent, unmanned objects, and had not seen any indication they were part of China’s spy program. But they exposed Washington’s heightened sense of alert as the standoff over the balloon delays efforts to reset bilateral relations. China says the balloon shot down on Feb. 4 was a civilian weather-monitoring aircraft. Beijing has accused Washington of sending its own balloons into Chinese airspace, and on Tuesday alleged those objects had flown above other countries as well. U.S. balloons “flew around the world and illegally entered the airspaces of China and other relevant countries at least ten times” since May 2022, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, without providing details or evidence. The White House has disputed China’s allegations. Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, tweeted: “Any claim that the US government operates surveillance balloons over the PRC is false.” (https://neuters.de/world/china/china-says-us-balloons-flew-into-its-airspace-2023-02-14/) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who postponed a planned trip to Beijing over the balloon, is considering meeting China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in Munich this week, sources said.