Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for February 20, 2023

Newsline: US top diplomat urges speedy Nordics accession to NATO

Washington strongly supports Sweden and Finland’s quick NATO accession given steps they have already taken, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, even as his Turkish counterpart stressed the need for more concrete action. “Finland and Sweden have already taken concrete steps to fulfil the commitments that they met under the trilateral memorandum of agreement that they signed,” Blinken said. Reiterating that NATO’s Nordic expansion issue is not a bilateral one with Turkey, Blinken said the United States strongly supported Sweden and Finland’s accession into the alliance “as quickly as possible”. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/blinken-turkey-backs-speedy-nordics-accession-nato-2023-02-20/) But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, standing alongside Blinken, said all parties in the alliance must convince Sweden in particular to take more action to address Ankara’s concerns and win its support for the bid. Sweden and Finland applied last year to join the trans-Atlantic defence pact after Russia invaded Ukraine, but faced unexpected objections from Turkey. Ankara says Stockholm has harboured what Ankara calls members of terrorist groups. Turkey recently indicated it would approve only Finland for NATO membership.

Newsline: US ambassador to Israel told ‘mind your own business’

The Israeli minister responsible for relations with Jews in the Diaspora has a message for the government of the country where most of them live: “Mind your own business.” Amichai Chikli made the comment Sunday in a radio interview in Israel, where he was asked to address recent comments by U.S. ambassador Tom Nides, who said he was urging Israeli leaders to “pump the brakes” on their controversial effort to change the country’s judiciary. Nides was echoing sentiments expressed by U.S. President Joe Biden about the judicial reform proposal, which would give the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, the power to overrule Supreme Court decisions. Biden said last week that both that checks and balances are part of the “genius” of democracy and that “building consensus for fundamental changes is really important.” Chikli had a retort: “I say to the American ambassador, put on the brakes yourself and mind your own business,” he said. “You aren’t sovereign here, to get involved in the matter of judicial reform. We will be happy to discuss foreign and security matters with you. But respect our democracy.” (https://www.jta.org/2023/02/19/politics/mind-your-own-business-israels-diaspora-minister-tells-us-ambassador-about-judicial-reform-urging) The message was in line with one that Chikli issued during his first public comments as Diaspora minister on American soil last month. And Netanyahu, too, appeared to reject the urging by Biden and Nides in a speech Sunday in Jerusalem to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella that includes a broad range of groups.

Newsline: China’s top diplomat comes to Moscow

China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, is due in Moscow shortly for talks on a possible peace settlement for Ukraine, a diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter said. (https://neuters.de/world/chinas-top-diplomat-arrives-moscow-talks-ukraine-kommersant-2023-02-20/) Russia’s Kommersant newspaper earlier reported that Wang had arrived. China’s foreign ministry declined immediate comment as did Russia’s foreign ministry. Wang said last week that Beijing would put forward “China’s position on the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis”, and that Beijing remained on the side of peace and security, China said. When Putin and Xi Jinping met face to face just before the Ukraine conflict began, the two leaders sealed a “no limits” partnership between China and Russia that triggered anxiety in the West.