Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for March 4, 2023

Newsline: Claims that Western ambassadors ‘evacuated’ from Turkey before quake seen as conspiracy theories

Western embassies in Turkey have rubbished claims that they removed their ambassadors from the country shortly before a devastating earthquake on February 6, an accusation shared in social media posts spewing baseless conspiracy theories that the disaster was planned. Media reports and social media activities placed the ambassadors in the country around the time of the quake. “Planned demolition anybody,” reads a Facebook post shared on February 16. The post shows a tweet by US conspiracy theorist David Wolfe that says Canada, the United States, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Holland and France “pulled their ambassadors out of Turkey 24 hours before the earthquake”. (https://news.yahoo.com/baseless-claim-turkey-ambassadors-evacuated-092000040.html) Similar posts circulated around the world, including in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Britain, racking up thousands of shares. Some Facebook users appeared to link the claim to conspiracy theories that the 7.8-magnitude tremor that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria was man-made. Turkey is one of the world’s most active earthquake zones. A combination of factors made February’s tremor particularly deadly, including its timing, location and the weak construction of the collapsed buildings, according to experts.

Newsline: China’s embassy in US to issue more visas

The Chinese embassy in the United States plans to issue more visas as demand, particularly among Chinese overseas and business travellers, rises following the reopening of China’s borders two months ago. The decision was made “to better meet the demand for visa applications in the current situation and further optimise the service”, the embassy said in a statement late on Friday. The number of visa application appointment slots would be expanded and office opening hours would be extended “as necessary”, it said. The embassy said holders of the multiple-year visas could “still travel to China once the visa is reinstated”. But those who “have no urgent or special reasons to travel to China in the near future” should wait to “avoid the current peak of visa applications and schedule application wisely”, the embassy said. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/chinas-embassy-us-step-visa-093000472.html). US citizens with visas – including multiple-year multi-entry visas – issued before March 2020 have not been allowed to enter China as part of the country’s effort to prevent imported infections. That has frustrated many overseas Chinese and frequent business travellers who have not been able to visit relatives or do business in China for nearly three years. The embassy said last month that visas issued before March 2020 could not be used because most of them were for tourists, and long-term visa holders had to apply for a new one if they wished to go to China.

Newsline: Cuba’s senior diplomat blasts U.S. for ignoring evidence on ‘Havana Syndrome’

Cuba blasted the United States for taking too long to accept evidence that the ailment “Havana Syndrome” was not likely caused by a foreign enemy, saying Washington ignored the science as a pretext for cutting off relations with the Communist-run island. A globe-spanning U.S. intelligence investigation declassified on Wednesday concluded it was “very unlikely” a foreign adversary was responsible for the mysterious sickness, first identified in the Cuban capital of Havana but which has afflicted U.S. diplomats and spies worldwide. read more “This conclusion … confirms what we already knew,” Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio told Reuters in an interview in Havana late on Thursday. “The unfortunate thing is, the U.S. government leveraged (Havana Syndrome) to derail bilateral relations … and discredit Cuba.” (https://neuters.de/world/americas/cuba-blasts-us-years-disregarding-evidence-havana-syndrome-2023-03-03/) Cuba has for years labeled as “science fiction” the idea that ´Havana Syndrome´ resulted from an attack by a foreign agent, and its top scientists in 2021 found no evidence of such allegations. The U.S. State Department did not immediately reply to a request for comment on de Cossio’s statements. U.S. officials have previously said the science was inconclusive and ongoing and that the government had opted to err on the side of caution in determining its policies toward Cuba.