Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March, 2023

Newsline: U.S. State Department confirms two citizens kidnapped in Haiti

Two U.S. citizens have been kidnapped in Haiti, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel confirmed on Thursday, adding that Washington is in regular contact with Haitian authorities and will continue to work with them. Patel declined to provide further details. CNN reported last week that a Florida couple, Abigail and Jean-Dickens Toussaint, had been kidnapped on March 18 in Haiti and were being held captive under ransom demands. The couple went to Haiti to visit family and to attend a festival but were kidnapped on their bus ride from Port-au-Prince, CNN reported, citing a woman claiming to be the victims’ niece. (https://neuters.de/world/state-department-confirms-two-us-citizens-kidnapped-haiti-2023-03-30/) Gangs in Haiti have grown in strength since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise, with large portions of the capital and much of the countryside considered lawless territory.

Newsline: U.S. eyes ‘Cold War’-era crisis diplomacy with China

Efforts to build a floor under U.S.-China relations have yet to be successful and coming months will determine if it is possible to reestablish constructive diplomacy with Beijing, a top White House official said on Thursday, stressing the need for “Cold War”-era hotlines and other crisis mechanisms. Speaking at a time of heightened tensions with China over a U.S. stopover by Taiwan’s president, U.S. Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell said Washington had made clear to Beijing it was ready to have another call between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “We’re prepared and, from our perspective, we want to keep lines of communication open and it is our intention to keep those lines open,” he said at an event hosted by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think tank. Campbell said the Chinese had been “reluctant to engage in discussions around confidence-building or crisis communications, or hotlines” and it would be a “responsible step” to have such mechanisms, given that Chinese and U.S. military forces operated in proximity to each other. “We built those during the Cold War. We think that they’re appropriate now,” he added. (https://neuters.de/world/efforts-build-floor-under-us-china-relations-not-yet-successful-us-official-2023-03-30/) Campbell said the U.S. was in the early stages of a new phase of competitive relations with China.

Newsline: Philippine top diplomat says Manila, Beijing to resume talks in May

The Philippines and China will resume discussions about jointly exploring oil and gas resources in the South China Sea in May, the Philippines’ foreign minister said. “They were proposing that we begin talks again on oil and gas. I think we will begin in maybe around six weeks but…at a technical level,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said in an interview with local network GMA News. Excerpts of Manalo’s interview were shared with the media by the Philippines Foreign Ministry. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/manila-beijing-resume-oil-gas-talks-may-philippine-minister-2023-03-30/) China claims jurisdiction over almost the entire South China Sea and the risk of disruption has made it difficult for the Philippines to find foreign investors, despite an arbitration court clarifying Manila’s entitlements in the sea. Efforts to find a legally viable way to cooperate on energy exploration have stalled repeatedly, with the administration of Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, abandoning talks last June citing constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty. The resumption comes on the heels of the first in-person meeting between diplomats from Manila and Beijing since before the pandemic, where they pledged to use diplomacy to resolve differences peacefully.

Newsline: US Top Diplomat Condemns Russia’s Detention of Reporter

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Russia for detaining American reporter. “We are deeply concerned over Russia’s widely reported detention of a U.S. citizen journalist,” Blinken said in a statement. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/ukraine-latest-top-secret-hearing-141846848.html) Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage.

Newsline: Russia’s diplomat says too early to talk of prisoner swap after U.S. reporter arrested on spy charges

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it was too early to talk of any possible prisoner swap with the United States, saying that such deals are typically arranged only after a prisoner is convicted. (https://neuters.de/world/ukraine-sees-russian-progress-eastern-frontline-city-bakhmut-2023-03-29/) Russia on Thursday charged an American correspondent for the Wall Street Journal with spying, in a case certain to escalate Moscow’s diplomatic feud with Washington. The newspaper denied the allegations and demanded the immediate release of “trusted and dedicated reporter” Evan Gershkovich. “The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich. We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family,” the newspaper said. Gershkovich, a 31-year-old who has worked in Russia as a journalist for six years. He was brought to Moscow, where a court at a closed hearing ordered him held in pre-trial detention until May 29. The TASS state news agency said he pleaded not guilty. There was no immediate response from Washington. The U.S. State Department’s travel guidance, last updated in February this year, advises U.S. citizens not to go to Russia because of the danger of arbitrary arrest, and says those living or travelling there should depart immediately.

Newsline: China’s embassy in Washington denounces visit of Tibet’s leader-in-exile

China accused the U.S. Congress of interfering in its internal affairs on Wednesday by virtually hosting the head of an India-based organization known as Tibet’s government-in-exile to speak at a hearing earlier this week. Penpa Tsering, known as the Sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), spoke to the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China via video link on Tuesday and said Tibet was dying a “slow death” under Chinese rule. Responding to a request for comment, the spokesperson for China’s embassy in Washington, Liu Pengyu, said: “The so-called ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’ is an out-and-out separatist political group and an illegal organization in total violation of China’s Constitution and laws.” “The invitation for the ‘Sikyong’ to speak at the Congress was an interference in China’s internal affairs. China is firmly opposed to this,” he said in an emailed statement. “The U.S. should take concrete actions to honor its commitment of acknowledging Tibet as part of China, and stop meddling in China’s internal affairs.” (https://neuters.de/world/china-denounces-us-congress-hosting-tibets-leader-in-exile-2023-03-29/) Tuesday’s address was the first to Congress by the Sikyong, a leadership role created in 2012 after the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans’ 87-year-old spiritual leader, relinquished political authority in favor of an organization that could outlive him. Beijing has accused the Dalai Lama of fomenting separatism in Tibet and it does not recognize the CTA, which represents about 100,000 exiled Tibetans living in around 30 countries including India, Nepal, Canada and the United States.

Newsline: Peru claims “definitive withdrawal” of ambassador from Colombia

Peru’s government on Wednesday announced the “definitive withdrawal” of its ambassador from Colombia amid diplomatic tensions between both countries. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/peru-announces-definitive-withdrawal-ambassador-colombia-2023-03-30/) The decision responds to “repetitive interventionist and offensive comments” from Colombian President Gustavo Petro, Peru’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Newsline: Sweden summons Russia’s ambassador

Sweden’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it will summon Russia’s Stockholm ambassador to complain about an “attempt at interference” with the Swedish NATO application process. The Russian ambassador in a statement on the embassy’s web site said joining NATO made the Nordic countries “a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature”. A Swedish foreign ministry spokesperson told Reuters the ambassador would be summoned. “The foreign ministry is summoning the Russian ambassador to protest this obvious attempt at interference,” Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom separately told news agency TT. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/sweden-summons-russias-ambassador-over-legitimate-target-statement-2023-03-29/) Sweden and Finland in 2022 both sought NATO membership and are hoping to complete the process this year.

Newsline: Israel to join U.S. Visa Waiver Programme in September

Israel expects to join the U.S. Visa Waiver Programme in September, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday, after Israeli legislation of measures required by Washington. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment on Netanyahu’s announcement, which came as tensions spiked between the allies over a contested Israeli judicial overhaul plan. (https://neuters.de/world/middle-east/netanyahu-sees-israel-joining-us-visa-waiver-programme-september-2023-03-29/) The embassy said on Jan. 30 that Israel met its requirement of being below the 3% non-immigrant refusal rate – a reference to the number of applicants turned away due to faulty paperwork. Before Netanyahu’s announcement, his national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, said on Twitter that parliament was due to ratify the last of four bills “that will advance us toward getting the U.S. visa waiver for the citizens of Israel”. That appeared to refer to the Knesset plenum’s approval in final readings on Wednesday of a law setting up a new national immigration database linked with airline passenger manifests. Washington had previously called for greater access to databases in Israel about its travelers to the United States. It was not immediately clear whether Israel met another U.S. condition for the visa waiver – free passage for Palestinian-Americans at its airports and into the occupied West Bank.

Newsline: China’s top diplomat spoke with White House’s senior official

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi spoke with White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday. (https://neuters.de/world/white-houses-sullivan-speaks-with-chinas-top-diplomat-wang-yi-bloomberg-2023-03-28/) The news agency cited people familiar with the matter without providing further detail.