Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: China praises British diplomat for saving drowning woman

Beijing on Tuesday praised a British diplomat who was filmed diving into a river in southern China to save a drowning student, a rare warm moment between two countries at loggerheads over human rights. Britain’s mission in the southwestern city of Chongqing said Monday that Consul General Stephen Ellison leapt into action at the weekend to save a woman who had fallen into a river coursing through a nearby tourist town. The video on Chinese social media — viewed more than 170 million times in China — shows Ellison pulling off his shoes and jumping in to rescue the woman, who was floating face down. “I think he should be commended for his act of bravery. I’d like to give him a big, big thumbs up,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a routine briefing Tuesday. Ellison’s actions also earned praise from British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who tweeted: “His bravery and commitment demonstrates the very best of British diplomats around the world.” (https://news.yahoo.com/china-praises-british-diplomat-saving-092331677.html) The 61-year-old former engineer had only recently been appointed to the role in the southern metropolis after serving for years at the main embassy in Beijing, and is an accomplished triathlete, according to local media reports.

Newsline: Baku denies reports on Azerbaijan’s ambassador recall from Russia

Media reports about the recall of Azerbaijani ambassador to Russia Polad Bulbuloglu are groundless, the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan said. “Reports of certain news media about the recall of the Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Russia are contrary to facts,” the Foreign Ministry said. (https://tass.com/world/1223793) The ambassador made an ambiguous remark during the online briefing, when commenting on the incident with the Russia Mi-24 helicopter shot down in Armenia. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in this regard that it assumes Baku will not allow itself making any oblique statements in connection with the tragic incident. The Russian Mi-24 helicopter was downed over Armenia near the border with Azerbaijan on November 9. Two crew members were killed and another one was injured. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry later claimed responsibility for the crash, informing that its Armed Forces had downed the Russian helicopter by mistake and offered to pay damages.

Newsline: Pakistani protesters call for French ambassador to be expelled from country

Thousands of supporters of a radical Islamist party in Pakistan continued to protest over depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in France that they deem blasphemous. They were angered by remarks made by French President Emmanuel Macron in the wake of the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty. Macron defended the freedom of expression to produce the cartoons and attacked “Islamist separatism”. The protesters in Pakistan — supporters of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) party — called for the expulsion of the French ambassador in Islamabad. They also want to cut diplomatic relations with France and withdraw their ambassador from the country. Muhammad Latif, a protester at the event in Islamabad, said: “We love our prophet, we will give our life for the respect and honour of Prophet Muhammad, we will give our life but can’t accept the French ambassador’s presence here.” (https://www.euronews.com/2020/11/16/pakistani-protesters-call-for-french-ambassador-to-be-expelled-from-country) The sit-in, which has continued at an important intersection, started unplanned at the end of a protest march from Rawalpindi led by TLP chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, despite resistance by police on Sunday night. TLP supporters defied the security arrangements of police and the administration and clashed with security forces at different points on the way to the Faizabad intersection.

Newsline: Hungarian diplomat in Bangkok tests positive for coronavirus

Health authorities in Thailand said that a Hungarian diplomat in Bangkok has tested positive for the coronavirus, and is believed to have become infected through contact with his country’s foreign minister, who tested positive last week during an abortive official visit. Cambodian officials had also said that Hungary’s ambassador to Cambodia and Vietnam had tested positive for the coronavirus in the wake of a one-day visit to Cambodia by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. Szijjarto was found to be infected when he was tested on arrival in Thailand from Cambodia. The unnamed 53-year-old Hungarian diplomat in Bangkok is the only locally transmitted case in Thailand so far to be linked to Szijjarto. He was described as asymptomatic but tested positive, and was sent to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Bangkok’s northern suburbs for treatment. Szijjarto had been sent to the same facility before flying back to Hungary. Sopon Iamsirithaworn, director of the Division of Communicable Diseases of the Department of Disease Control, said the diplomat sat in the same car and had a quick dinner with Szijjarto on the day he arrived in Bangkok. After the foreign minister tested positive, the diplomat was quarantined at home, and transferred to the isolation facility after testing positive. (https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/hungarian-diplomat-in-bangkok-tests-positive-for-coronavirus/) The diplomat was not identified by name. However, in response to reporters’ questions, Sopon referred to him as “ambassador.” Hungary’s embassy in Thailand did not reply to questions for further details.

Newsline: Chinese Ambassador to the UK summoned to the FCDO

The FCDO Permanent Under-Secretary has summoned the Chinese Ambassador to the UK to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The Chinese Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. The Permanent Under-Secretary set out that China’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong was a breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The Permanent Under-Secretary said that Beijing’s latest actions are an assault on Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Joint Declaration. (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chinese-ambassador-to-the-uk-summoned-to-the-fcdo) He called on China to uphold its international obligations.

Newsline: American Citizen Says He Was Denied Refuge in Hong Kong’s U.S. Consulate

An American citizen facing prosecution related to his participation in pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong said he was turned away after seeking protection at the U.S. consulate in the city. “I am running out of options,” said the man, Ansen Wong, a 20-year-old student-turned-activist. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-citizen-says-he-was-turned-away-after-seekingrefugein-u-s-consulate-in-hong-kong-11604863457) Mr. Wong was convicted this year on a charge of taking part in illicit protests in Hong Kong.

Newsline: Hillary Clinton under consideration for Biden’s U.N. ambassador

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s transition team is reportedly considering installing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as his administration’s ambassador to the United Nations. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that a person familiar with the matter said Clinton was “being discussed” as a potential pick because it would purportedly raise the prestige and standing of the U.S. after President Trump’s time in office. (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-administration-hillary-clinton-for-u-n-ambassador) News of Clinton’s potential nomination came as Biden attempted to alter world leaders’ perceptions of the U.S. in foreign relations. “I’m letting them know that America is back. We’re going to be back in the game,” he said. Clinton famously lost her 2016 presidential bid against Trump and has become a lightning rod for criticism of the left. During the campaign, she testified before Congress over her role in the 2011 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That incident has stuck with her as a prominent point line of attack among critics.

Newsline: US ambassador to Denmark makes Twitter claim about own vote

The United States Ambassador to Denmark Carla Sands has been criticised for tweeting a claim that her own vote had not been counted in the country’s general election. Earlier this week, Sands posted on her personal Twitter account a screenshot which she claimed showed her absentee ballot in the state of Pennsylvania had not been registered. (https://www.thelocal.dk/20201112/us-ambassador-to-denmark-makes-false-twitter-claim-about-own-vote) Absentee or mail-in votes in the state can be tracked using the voter’s name, date of birth and the county they voted in. All of this information for Sands is public. Several other Twitter users – as well as the New York Times – then looked up Sands’ vote on the Pennsylvania state government website and found it was indeed registered, on October 15th. It is unclear when the information on Sands’ vote would have been updated to Pennsylvania’s election website. Sands, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, has made several Twitter posts since the US election in support of Trump’s claims of election fraud. The NYT writes that the US State Department did not respond to its request for comment after the paper sent press officers screen shots of both Sands’ tweets and the Pennsylvania election website showing her vote was counted. Danish broadcaster TV2 said it was unable to reach Sands for comment.

Newsline: At least 20 shots fired at Saudi embassy in The Hague

Shots have been fired at the Saudi embassy on the Koninginnegracht in the centre of The Hague, according to local media reports, but police say it is too early to give more information. Reports suggest the building was hit at least 20 times and that dozens of casings litter the ground. (https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/11/at-least-20-shots-fired-at-saudi-embassy-in-the-hague-no-one-hurt/) Police were alerted to the shooting shortly before 6am. No-one so far has been reported hurt. Around 6 AM we received a report that multiple shots were fired at the building of the Saudi Arabia embassy on the #Koninginnegracht in #TheHague. No one was injured. We are currently conducting research. Witnesses who have information are requested to call 0900-8844. — Politie Eenheid Den Haag (@POL_DenHaag) November 12, 2020 According to local broadcaster Omroep West, bullet holes can be seen clearly in several windows. Police and forensic teams are now at the embassy and part of the street has been sealed off while the investigation gets underway.

Newsline: Trump’s refusal to concede leaves diplomats unclear on what to tell allies

As President Donald Trump refuses to acknowledge Joe Biden’s presidential election victory, he has put American diplomats in an awkward and untenable position — leaving them confused about what they can say to foreign counterparts about the election results and distressed about the possibility of waning global confidence in American democracy. The State Department had not provided diplomats with guidance for how to discuss the election results as of Monday night, five US diplomats told CNN. (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/11/10/politics/diplomats-post-election-guidance/index.html) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further complicated the matter on Tuesday when he refused to acknowledge Biden’s win and when asked if the State Department would cooperate with Biden’s transition, said that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Two US diplomats said they had been looking forward to hearing Pompeo speak in the hope that it would give them a sense of how to discuss the election results. But Pompeo’s comments instead drew outrage and confusion from US diplomats who argue that they further undermine US credibility. “I am sick,” said one US diplomat overseas. “How dare he undermine our work.” “How can he be serious?” said another US diplomat. Traditionally, the secretary of state congratulates the President-elect and sends department-wide notes committing the department to a constructive transfer of power. In the more than 72 hours since CNN protected that Biden won the presidential election, US diplomats had asked the State Department for clarity but they have not received any guidance, four diplomats told CNN prior to Pompeo’s remarks. Without guidance from the department, America’s diplomats do not know the appropriate way to describe Biden’s victory and Trump’s allegations of fraud. Another US diplomat said that “it is Trump’s behavior that puts democracies in jeopardy.” “This is what we have spent a tremendous amount of time lecturing other countries against doing — undermining a legitimate democratic process. I wonder why they would take us seriously now,” this person said.