Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for North America

Newsline: Top US diplomat urges Rwanda to halt support for armed groups in Congo

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Rwandan President Paul Kagame to halt support for armed groups in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including rebels who are accused of multiple rights violations, the State Department said on Monday. Blinken emphasized during his Sunday call with Kagame that “any external support to non-state armed groups in the DRC must end, including Rwanda’s assistance to M23,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement. “Secretary Blinken also shared deep concern about the impact of the fighting on Congolese civilians who have been killed, injured and displaced from their homes,” added Price. (https://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/top-us-diplomat-urges-rwanda-to-halt-support-for-armed-groups-in-congo-3656725) Blinken also condemned hate speech and public incitement against Rwandaphone communities – meaning the speakers of Kinyarwanda, including most ethic Tutsis – “recalling the real and horrible consequences of such rhetoric in the past,” the statement added, likely referring to the 1994 genocide. The Democratic Republic of the Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group, which some fear could capture Goma, the capital of North Kivu, Congo. While Rwanda denies the allegations, political and diplomatic tensions between the two countries continue.

Newsline: Canada Summons Chinese Ambassador Repeatedly

Recently, the “police stations” that China has established in Canada have been a source of concern in Ottawa. The Canadian government has confirmed that it has repeatedly summoned the Chinese ambassador to request an end to these activities. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized that the government will ensure that the nation’s citizens are not subject to foreign government interference or impacted in their daily lives. In October of this year, international human rights organization Safeguard Defenders released a report revealing that China has set up at least 54 “police stations” in 30 countries around the world, three of which are located in the Greater Toronto area of Canada. Since this information was made public, it has garnered significant attention. Weldon Epp, the director of the Northeast Asia department of Canada’s Global Affairs department, explained at a meeting of the Canada-China Relations Committee that Ottawa takes this matter very seriously. He stated, “We have had multiple contacts with the Chinese side, summoning the ambassador multiple times to express our deep concerns. The Canadian government has formally demanded that the Chinese government, including the ambassador and embassy, be held accountable for any activities within Canada that are not part of the Vienna Convention and ensure that these activities are stopped.” (https://swarajyamag.com/world/canada-summons-chinese-ambassador-repeatedly-telling-him-to-stop-the-operation-of-ccp-police-stations-on-canadian-soil) The Chinese embassy in Canada issued a statement saying that the purpose of the service stations is to provide free services such as vision and hearing exams, as well as physical examinations, to Chinese citizens living abroad. This is meant to make it easier for them to replace driver’s licenses and other documents. According to the Vienna Convention, consular and administrative services should be provided by embassies and consulates.

Newsline: U.S. diplomats “actively engaged” with Russians on prisoner swap

U.S. diplomats are “actively engaged” with their Russian counterparts to secure the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, possibly in a prisoner swap. “We have to see if the engagements that we’ve had, the discussions that we have, produced an actual result. That’s the most important thing, but we are not resting on the laurels of having put forward a proposal some months ago. We’ve been actively engaged over these many months to try to move things forward,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday, Dec. 4, on CBS News’ Face the Nation. (https://www.bet.com/article/muluo5/top-us-diplomat-says-administration-actively-engaged-prisoner-swap-brittney-griner) A Russian diplomat said in November that the two sides could reach a prisoner swap agreement this year that could bring home Griner and Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia since 2018 on alleged espionage charges.

Newsline: Pakistan Planning to Sell Embassy’s Building in the US

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Marriyum Aurangzeb, has announced that the federal cabinet has authorized the proposal of auctioning off one of the two Pakistan Embassy buildings in Washington, US. She made this announcement during a press conference and stated that one of the buildings was fully renovated, but the second one’s restoration work was only 60 percent completed. In addition, the US government had removed the diplomatic status of that building, Information Minister added. Moreover, she claimed that the government has paid thousands of dollars in taxes for the building, which is currently not in use. Therefore, the cabinet approved the decision to auction the partially renovated building in a transparent manner. (https://propakistani.pk/2022/12/01/govt-planning-to-sell-embassys-building-in-the-us/) Furthermore, she stated that the previous bid for the building was $4.5 million, but now $6.9 million has been offered, which is significantly greater than the earlier one.

Newsline: US State Department condemns shooting at Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan

The U.S. condemned an attack a day earlier on the Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, in which a senior Pakistani diplomat escaped unhurt but one of his Pakistani guards was wounded, sending a wave of anger in this Islamic nation. In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States condemned the Embassy attack, telling reporters “we offer our sympathies and wish a quick recovery to those affected by the violence”. The United States is “deeply concerned by the attack on a foreign diplomat and we call for a full and transparent investigation,” Price said. The U.S. chargé d’affaires for Afghanistan, Karen Decker also condemned the attack on Nizamani in a tweet Saturday. “Outraged at attack on my diplomatic counterpart @PakinAfg, Ubaid Nizamani; I am grateful he is safe & wish a quick recovery to the brave security guard who was injured. I join the call for a swift, thorough and transparent investigation,” Decker wrote. (https://fox59.com/news/national-world/ap-international/ap-washington-condemns-shooting-at-pakistan-embassy-in-kabul/) Shots were fired at the embassy from a nearby building by an as-yet known assailant or assailants. Shortly after the shooting, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif took to Twitter on Friday, calling the attack an “assassination attempt” against Pakistan’s head of mission in Afghanistan, Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani.

Newsline: Former residence of Swedish ambassador in Washington lists for $19.5 million

This 11,200-square-foot house, owned by the Swedish government and once the home of a well-known Washington publisher, sits on nearly seven acres, one of the largest parcels now on the market in Washington. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/12/02/former-residence-swedish-ambassador-lists-195-million/) The Swedish government purchased the property — in Northwest Washington’s American University Park neighborhood — in the 1950s. It has been home to 12 Swedish ambassadors, including Karin Olofsotter, who lived there from 2017 to 2019. She relocated the residence to the Swedish Embassy in Georgetown to be nearer downtown Washington and to have the added interior space needed to host larger events. The grounds have a lighted tennis court and a greenhouse. The driveway has two entrances, both gated, and a there is a circular section in front of the house that connects to a large parking lot and an attached garage.

Newsline: Soccer-loving top US diplomat thanks French President

French President Emmanuel Macron received praise during a state visit to Washington for his diplomacy on issues from Lebanon to Ukraine. And also, from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, over soccer. The top US diplomat, who spent part of his childhood in France, at a luncheon Thursday in honor of Macron offered a light-hearted thank-you to Macron over his favorite team. The years in Paris “gifted me with a lifelong love of soccer — or football, to use the correct word – and also the Paris Saint-Germain team,” Blinken said. “So while I couldn’t be prouder to cheer on Team USA at the World Cup, I’m also thrilled to see Kylian Mbappe working his magic for Les Bleus and, Mr. President, thank you for keeping him in Paris.” (https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer-loving-top-us-diplomat-223848846.html) Blinken made these remarks as he and Vice President Kamala Harris welcomed Macron to a luncheon at the State Department.

Newsline: Top level diplomacy between U.S. and China expected at G20 summit next week

President Joe Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of next week’s Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, the White House announced. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that the two leaders will meet Monday to discuss “efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between the United States and the PRC, responsibly manage competition, and work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges that affect the international community.” (https://news.yahoo.com/biden-meet-chinas-xi-person-180026286.html) The meeting comes as the relationship between the United States and China has grown increasingly strained over the past few years. Tensions hit a high over the summer after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, which Beijing viewed as an effort to undermine China’s territorial integrity. Although the two leaders have spoken virtually five times over the past two years, this will be their first in-person meeting since Biden became president. Xi did not attend last year’s G-20 summit in Rome and has just recently begun traveling overseas since the start of the Covid pandemic.

Newsline: Top U.S. General Urges Diplomacy in Ukraine

A disagreement has emerged at the highest levels of the United States government over whether to press Ukraine to seek a diplomatic end to its war with Russia, with America’s top general urging negotiations while other advisers to President Joe Biden argue that it is too soon. Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made the case in internal meetings that the Ukrainians have achieved about as much as they could reasonably expect on the battlefield before winter sets in and so they should try to cement their gains at the bargaining table, according to officials informed about the discussions. The debate, which the officials described on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive deliberations, has spilled out into public in recent days as Milley made public comments hinting at his private advice. “Seize the moment,” he said in a speech in New York on Wednesday. He elaborated in an interview on CNBC on Thursday. “We’ve seen the Ukrainian military fight the Russian military to a standstill,” he said. “Now, what the future holds is not known with any degree of certainty, but we think there are some possibilities here for some diplomatic solutions.” (https://news.yahoo.com/top-u-general-urges-diplomacy-131116974.html) But other senior officials have resisted the idea, maintaining that neither side is ready to negotiate and that any pause in the fighting would only give President Vladimir Putin of Russia a chance to regroup. While Biden’s advisers believe the war will likely be settled through negotiations eventually, officials said, they have concluded that the moment is not ripe and the United States should not be seen as pressuring the Ukrainians to hold back while they have momentum.

Newsline: State Department excuses handshake between top U.S. climate envoy and Venezuela’s Maduro

The State Department on Tuesday excused a handshake between top Biden administration climate envoy John Kerry and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro as an “unplanned interaction.” Kerry was caught on video briefly meeting Maduro, Venezuela’s president, at the COP27 U.N. climate meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. The brief but friendly encounter raised eyebrows on social media because Maduro has been charged by the U.S. government with narco-terrorism, conspiracy to import cocaine and possession of deadly weapons. In 2020, the State Department – which Kerry led under President Obama from 2013 to 2017 – offered a reward of up to $15 million for any information leading to the arrest and capture of Maduro. Kerry’s brief meeting appeared friendly and cordial. However, State Department spokesman Ned Price downplayed the encounter by saying Maduro interrupted Kerry during the meeting. “He briefly spoke to Special Envoy Kerry during COP27,” Price said. “This was not… planned or substantive in any way.” (https://www.foxnews.com/politics/john-kerrys-handshake-accused-narco-terrorist-nicolas-maduro-unplanned-state-dept) Price did not offer any insight or updates on whether the U.S. is any closer to securing Maduro’s capture, and stressed the brief meeting with Kerry did not touch on substantive issues.