Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: U.S envoy says Russian support for Myanmar junta ‘destabilising’ Southeast Asia

Russia’s backing for Myanmar’s military rulers is unacceptable and destabilising, with its supply of weapons helping to fuel a conflict that has become a catastrophe for the country, a top U.S. State Department official said. The United States is concerned about the wider impact of the escalating crisis in Myanmar since a coup in 2021 and advancement of the junta’s ties with Russia, which could seek to establish military bases in the country, State Department Counselor Derek Chollet told Reuters. “Anyone who is talking to Moscow needs to tell them that their continued military support for the junta is unacceptable. It’s destabilising,” he said in an interview during his trip to Southeast Asia. “And it’s not only a problem for Myanmar, it’s a problem for this region.” (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/russian-support-myanmar-junta-destabilising-southeast-asia-us-envoy-2023-03-23/) Activists and U.N. experts have condemned Russia, the first major power to voice support for the junta, as well as China, for supplying weapons to a military they accuse of systematic atrocities against civilians. The junta says it is fighting “terrorists”.

Newsline: U.S. eyes re-establishing diplomatic presence in Libya

The United States is “actively” working on re-establishing a diplomatic presence in Libya, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, although he declined to provide an exact time on when the U.S. embassy can be reopened. (https://neuters.de/world/africa/blinken-says-us-actively-working-re-establish-diplomatic-presence-libya-2023-03-22/) Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi and it split in 2014 between rival eastern and western factions, with the last major bout of conflict ending in 2020 with a ceasefire. Washington shut its embassy in Tripoli in 2014 and moved to its mission to neighboring Tunis following intensifying violence between rival factions. U.S. Special Envoy for Libya, Richard Norland, has operated out of the Tunisian capital, and took occasional trips into Libya. A September 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, since closed, killed four Americans including the then U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.

Newsline: Senior U.S. diplomat for Europe to step down

The top U.S. diplomat to Europe Karen Donfried will step down to focus on her family, a State Department spokesperson said on Monday. (https://neuters.de/world/us/top-us-state-dept-diplomat-europe-step-down-focus-family-2023-03-20/) The 18-month tenure of Assistant Secretary Donfried, who assumed the role in September 2021, has been marked by the biggest conflict in Europe since the World War Two and the U.S. push to form and solidify a unified Western position against Russia. She has been among U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s key aides, traveling frequently to Europe to meet with U.S. partners as President Joe Biden sought to repair and re-energize transatlantic ties damaged by the unilateral approach of former president Donald Trump’s administration. In one of her last high-level meetings at the State Department, she confronted Russia’s top diplomat in Washington, when he was summoned last Tuesday following the crash of a U.S. drone over the Black Sea after being intercepted by Russian jets. She was set to leave her post at the end of March, the Department spokesperson said. No decision has been made yet on her successor to oversee the Bureau of Europe and Eurasian Affairs which covers 50 countries that stretch from the United Kingdom to Azerbaijan.

Newsline: Former U.S. Embassy employee sentenced for sex crimes in Philippines

A former State Department employee who sexually abused minors while working overseas was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Friday. (https://news.yahoo.com/former-state-department-employee-sentenced-131147740.html) The Department of Justice said 63-year-old Dean Edward Cheves, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines from 2017 to 2021, pleaded guilty to engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place in October 2022. According to court documents, Cheves used his personal cell phone to communicate inappropriately with two teenage girls in the Philippines whom he had met online, and he was aware that the two victims were minors. The DOJ also said that Cheves used his government-issued iPhone 11 to film multiple videos of sexual acts involving one of the girls. The child sex abuse material that he produced was found on the phone after it was seized from his embassy residence in the Philippines.

Newsline: U.S. envoy to travel to Honduras as it eyes China ties

A high-ranking envoy of President Joe Biden will travel to Panama and Honduras this month, the U.S. Department of State said on Thursday, days after Taiwan ally Honduras said it would establish formal diplomatic ties with China. Chris Dodd, the U.S. special presidential adviser for the Americas, will visit the two Central American countries from March 17 to March 21, the department said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/us/us-americas-envoy-travel-panama-honduras-coming-days-2023-03-16/) In recent years, the United States has focused on migration and security challenges stemming from Central America, as well as trade and development priorities, but it has also been concerned about Chinese efforts to expand its influence in the region.

Newsline: US ambassador to India confirmed after two-year delay

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India on Wednesday, ending a nearly two-year nomination fight over allegations the former Los Angeles mayor mishandled workplace harassment complaints. Senators backed Garcetti by 52-42, as seven Republicans joined the majority of Democrats in supporting Garcetti and three Democrats joined most Republicans in voting no. The United States has not had an ambassador to New Delhi since January 2021, an absence that has loomed large as Washington looks to India to be a partner in efforts to push back against China’s expanding power and influence. “The United States-India relationship is extremely important and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who led a congressional delegation to India last month. (https://neuters.de/world/us/biden-nomination-garcetti-ambassador-india-advances-us-senate-2023-03-15/) Biden is eager to deepen ties with India, the world’s largest democracy and a major U.S. trading partner, as part of his bid to win what he has framed as a contest between free and autocratic societies.

Newsline: U.S. summons Russian ambassador over drone downing

The United States will on Tuesday afternoon summon Russia’s ambassador to Washington after a Russian Su-27 fighter jet downed a U.S. military drone over the Black Sea, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. (https://neuters.de/world/us-summon-russian-ambassador-over-downing-drone-over-black-sea-state-dept-2023-03-14/) The U.S. ambassador to Moscow has conveyed a strong message to Russia’s foreign affairs ministry and U.S. officials had briefed allies and partners over the incident, Price told reporters on a phone briefing.

Newsline: U.S. top diplomat to travel to Ethiopia, Niger next week

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Ethiopia next week, the State Department said. The visit, set as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed works to reestablish himself on the world stage following the two-year Tigray war, comes as foreign troops remain within the region and bureaucratic hurdles hamper the humanitarian response. Blinken will also visit Niger, a key U.S. security partner, during the trip, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement. It will be the first-ever visit to Niger by a U.S. secretary of state. (https://neuters.de/world/africa/blinken-travel-ethiopia-niger-march-14-19-state-dept-2023-03-10/) Africa has emerged as a focus for Washington as it aims to position itself as a partner to countries in the region amid competition with China, which has sought to expand its influence by funding infrastructure projects on the continent. The visit to Addis Ababa and Niamey is one of a slew of high-level visits the Biden administration has planned to Africa this year.

Newsline: Chinese embassy in Ottawa silent on ‘police stations’ in Montreal

Canadian Police said on Thursday they are investigating allegations that two Montreal-area centers are being used as Chinese state-backed “police stations” to intimidate or harass Canadians of Chinese origin. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment. It has previously said that there are centers outside China run by local volunteers, not Chinese police officers, that aim to help Chinese citizens renew documents and offer other services disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We are carrying out police actions aimed at detecting and disrupting these foreign state-backed criminal activities, which may threaten the safety of persons living in Canada,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Quebec said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/canada-police-probe-alleged-chinese-police-stations-montreal-2023-03-09/) In November, the RCMP also launched an investigation into similar reports of Chinese “police service stations” in the Toronto area. The RCMP in Ontario did not respond to a request for information on that probe on Thursday. The investigation adds to mounting allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s internal affairs, including accusations by Ottawa that Beijing tried to influence the last two Canadian elections. China has denied those accusations. Countries including the United States and the Netherlands have conducted similar probes following a report in September by Safeguard Defenders, a Europe-based human rights organization, detailing the presence of dozens of Chinese police “service stations” in major cities globally.

Newsline: U.S. State Department clinches $100 mln deal to monitor health of diplomats

Palantir Technologies Inc has won a contract to sell up to $99.6 million worth of software to the U.S. Department of State for monitoring the health of the diplomatic corps, the company told Reuters ahead of a Wednesday announcement. (https://neuters.de/technology/palantir-lands-996-mln-deal-with-us-state-department-2023-03-08/) The U.S. data analytics firm said the project – Axiom – would help the Bureau of Medical Services respond faster to any health crises faced by the embassy staff and their families. The bureau has sought software to record health incidents, predict risks, manage medical-evacuation missions and handle other tasks, according to a government document. The news reflects how Palantir is aiming to secure government deals beyond the military and intelligence work central to its business, even as analysts have said such opportunities are being delayed by the U.S. budget scrutiny.