Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 16, 2023

Newsline: Russia expels four Austrian diplomats

Russia said on Thursday it was expelling four Austrian diplomats in a tit-for-tat move after Vienna expelled four Russian diplomats in a case which appeared to be related to spying. In a statement on Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Vienna had taken an “unfriendly and unjustified step” and was ruining Austria’s previous position as a respected, unbiased and neutral state. (https://uk.investing.com/news/world-news/russia-expels-four-austrian-diplomats-in-titfortat-move-2917812) Austria said on Feb. 2 it was expelling four Russian diplomats for behaving in a manner inconsistent with international agreements, a reason often invoked in spying cases, without giving specifics. It gave them a week to leave. Austria still has not elaborated on its reasons for expelling the diplomats, who worked at Russia’s Mission to the United Nations in Vienna and Russia’s Embassy to Austria. “The expulsion of Austrian embassy staff from Russia does not come as a surprise. We regret this unjustified decision by Russia, which lacks any basis in fact,” Austria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement in response to Russia’s move. “The Austrian embassy employees concerned perform their duties exclusively in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” the statement added. Vienna is a major diplomatic centre hosting the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and United Nations organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Newsline: U.S., China Top Diplomats Mull Meeting

Tensions over the U.S. military’s downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon are set to culminate this weekend in Munich, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi are scheduled to attend a security conference. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-china-diplomats-see-chance-to-clear-the-air-over-balloon-d9567e34?siteid=yhoof2&yptr=yahoo) In recent days, the U.S. and China have been discussing setting up a meeting between Messrs. Blinken and Wang, according to people familiar with the matter. The meeting could take place at the Munich Security Conference, which runs Feb. 17-19, the people said, though they cautioned that nothing had been decided and the negotiations are fluid. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to attend and give a speech on supporting Ukraine, officials said.

Newsline: Israeli foreign minister in Ukraine to reopen embassy

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen is set to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Thursday in the first such visit since the Russian invasion last year, the Foreign Ministry said. Cohen was set to attend the reopening of the Israeli embassy that has returned to full activity, the ministry said. (https://neuters.de/world/israeli-foreign-minister-ukraine-first-time-since-war-began-2023-02-16/) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who returned to power in December, has spoken about reviewing Israeli policy on the Ukraine-Russia war but has stopped short of pledging any direct supply of arms to Kyiv. The Israelis want to maintain a coordination hotline with Russia, set up in 2015, over their military strikes on suspected Iranian targets in Syria, where Moscow has a garrison. They are also mindful of the welfare of Russia’s big Jewish community.

Newsline: Algerian arrested for threatening to blast Saudi embassy

Algerian security forces arrested one person who threatened to blast the headquarters of the Saudi embassy in Algiers, Algerian state TV reported on Wednesday. The Saudi embassy received a call at 3 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) on Wednesday from a person who threatened to bomb its headquarters, the TV added, citing a statement from the capital’s security forces. (https://neuters.de/world/africa/algeria-arrests-one-person-who-threatened-blast-saudi-embassy-2023-02-15/) The capital’s security forces arrested the suspect after investigations, the report said adding that the person was subjected to medical checks and psychological tests before being prosecuted. There was no immediate comment from the Saudi embassy in Algeria or the Saudi authorities.